Energy Dept. announces billions in loans for new nuclear reactors

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Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Wednesday announced the approval of a multibillion-dollar loan guarantee for the first nuclear reactors to be built in the U.S. in nearly 30 years.

Southern Company, which received a conditional green light for an $8.3 billion loan guarantee in February 2010, will be getting $6.5 of that pot for two new reactors at its Vogtle plant in Waynesboro, Ga.

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During a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Moniz said the department will finalize the two loans on Thursday during his visit to Georgia.

Moniz touted the new reactors as a commitment to the administration's "all of the above" energy strategy and carbon emissions goals.

"The president wants to make clear that he sees nuclear energy as a part of his carbon-free portfolio," Moniz said on Wednesday. "We are working across the board to push the technology forward into the marketplace for all of our energy sources."

The nuclear reactors would be able to supply power to about 1.5 million homes.

While nuclear power makes up roughly 20 percent of the nation's electric generation, the industry has faced an uphill climb in the past decades.

The Southern Company reactors would be the first built since the 1979 Three Mile Island incident, which resulted in the release of radioactive gases. Similarly, the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster has hurt the industry's image globally.

In the U.S., with the surge in production of cheap natural gas pushing the energy source to the forefront, nuclear power is having to find ways to compete economically.

Moniz echoed Obama's comments last month, calling natural gas a "bridge fuel" to a low-carbon future.