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Southern Co.'s (SO) top executive thanked the Obama administration Thursday for licenses it issued for new nuclear reactors, and said the company would incorporate in the plant any safety changes needed following a pending review of Japan's Fukushima nuclear complex.
Earlier Thursday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved Southern's application for the first new U.S. nuclear reactors in decades, clearing a regulatory hurdle in the company's quest to lead a wave of reactor construction.
Four of the five NRC members said Thursday they favor Southern's proposal to build two new reactors at its existing Plant Vogtle site in Georgia. However, NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko voted against issuing the license, saying the license should be conditioned on making "safety enhancements" as a result of meltdowns last year at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Southern's chairman, president and chief executive promised Thursday that the company has already "taken into account" the events at Fukushima last year and will make any safety changes necessary to existing reactors and the new reactors it plans to build, following completion of a pending analysis of lessons learned from the accident.
"This is an important day in America and a wonderful day for Southern Company and Georgia Power," Fanning told reporters Thursday at a briefing in Atlanta.
Fanning said that there "really [was] not a difference of opinion with the chairman of the NRC" and suggested that the disagreement was over timing of changes that could be made to the new reactors.
"Our commitment, as it always has been, is to incorporate the comments of everyone...to ensure we have the safest, most reliable nuclear generation in the world," Fanning said. "That process with the NRC continues long after the [project] goes into operation. This industry has a track record of continuous learning and we'll continue that posture."
Atlanta-based Southern said the project would create 4,000 to 5,000 construction jobs.
-By Cassandra Sweet, Dow Jones Newswires; 415-439-6468; firstname.lastname@example.org