NRC approves first new US nuclear plants in 30 years

Southern Co is now proceed with full construction of the first new nuclear power plant in the US in more than 30 years, a process that began in early 2004 and is expected to cost $14bn.

On 9 February, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted 4-1 to give the Southern Co-led consortium a combined construction and operating licence (COL) for two additional units at the Vogtle site, about 42 km southeast of Atlanta, Ga.

The NRC found the staff’s review adequate to make the necessary regulatory safety and environmental findings, clearing the way for the NRC’s Office of New Reactors to issue the COLs.

The approval marks the first construction licence issued for a US nuclear plant since 1978, a year before the Three Mile Island accident.

“Today is a historic day for Southern Co and Georgia Power Co,” said Tom Fanning, Southern Co chairman, president and CEO. “But I think, moreover, it marks a monumental occasion for the citizens that we serve in the Southeast.”

The NRC is also considering a licence for Scana Corp (SCG) of Cayce, South Carolina, to build two reactors at an existing plant, as the agency weighs new safety rules for the US nuclear-power industry after Japan’s disaster last year.

US plans offshore wind auctions in 2012

The US Interior Department plans to auction this year leases for sites where developers can build wind farms in the waters off four eastern states after completing environmental reviews.

There will be “no significant environmental and socioeconomic impacts” from building turbines in “wind energy areas” off Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and New Jersey, said the agency.

This eliminates work for developers, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told a press conference in Baltimore. There are no turbines in US waters, something President Obama aims to change with an “all-out, all-of-the-above” energy strategy.

Alstom wins $13m Columbia contracts

Alstom Grid has consolidated its presence in Colombia with deals worth about $13m for the delivery of two turnkey substations.

Power generator and distributor Electrificadora del Huila wants Alstom to supply a turnkey gas-insulated substation in the city of Neiva and to extend two existing ones to close the 115kV ring of Neiva.

The second contract is from Ecopetrol for the delivery and engineering of the Araguaney 115kV gas-insulated substation.

California gives customers chance of smart meter opt out

State regulators in California have allowed utility customers to opt out of having a smart meter and instead keep their old meters – even though the smart meters have already been fitted.

It means any customer of PG&E that takes up the opt-out option will pay a fee to cover the cost of the utility having to reinstall their analogue meter and then have someone come out and read it once a month.

The move is a blow for the smart meter sector in the US and potentially in Europe, where many countries with smart meter schemes in the pipeline are watching the established American market for tips and pitfalls.

The decision comes following a successful anti-smart meter campaign by consumers, who objected to smart meters not on the grounds of privacy and data security – which have already stalled and even resulted in the cancellation of smart initiatives in the US and The Netherlands – but on health fears: people are concerned electromagnetic signals from the meters’ wireless mesh network cause migraines and nausea.

Bahia braced for 14.8 GW windfall

Bahia state, in the north of Brazil, estimates that it has about 8.8 GW of wind capacity in the initial phases of development, according to Rafael Valverde, executive secretary of the local energy committee.

The projects are said to be in addition to 4.4 GW of wind power ventures that already have environmental licences and another 1.6 GW of wind power undertakings that are in process of obtaining environmental licences.

This brings the total capacity of wind power facilities at different stages of development in Bahia to an impressive 14.8 GW, said the executive secretary.

Rurelec breaks into Chile with power plant deal

Latin American electricity utility Rurelec is to enter the Chilean market for the first time via a joint venture deal to build a 38 MW diesel fired power plant in the port city of Arica.

Rurelec has bought a 50 per cent stake in Termonor, a Chilean company developing the $4m plant with domestic development and construction organisations Invener and Enerbosch.

Rurelec will put up $2m of the costs while Invener and Enerbosch will provide the remainder.

Brazil: Contracts to sell at least 100 MW of solar capacity may be auctioned next year, Leonidas Andrade, director of photovoltaics at the trade group Associacao Brasileira da Industria Eletrica e Eletronica, told Bloomberg.

Brazil: Iberdrola SA has offered about 6bn reais ($3.42bn) to raise its stake in Neoenergia SA, a Brazilian power company, to 75 per cent up from 39 percent, said a person close to the deal, according to Bloomberg.

Canada: Westinghouse Electric Co LLC announced the formation of Westinghouse Electric Canada Inc, which will have its headquarters in Toronto, Ontario.

Chile: A key 500 kV transmission line in Chile has suffered a delay. In 2009, Elecnor won the bid to build the transmission line with the cheapest offer. The line was due to be in full operation next year, but it is no longer expected to be ready before 2014.

Chile: AES Gener SA plans to build a $572m solar farm to boost electricity supply to copper miners in the Atacama Desert.

Mexico: The country needs to produce 27 000 MW of additional power – or 1800 MW a year – over the next 15 years to keep pace with demand, according to a new report by Fitch Research. The bulk of demand growth is from the industrial sector – where annual growth is estimated to average 5 per cent.

USA: Atlantic Power Corp (ATP), a Boston-based independent power producer, agreed to buy a 51 per cent stake in a 298 MW wind farm in Oklahoma for $23m. Construction on the $460m Canadian Hills project near Oklahoma City will begin in April, said Atlantic Power.

USA: Rockland Capital was the winning bidder for assets of Beacon Power Corp, which makes flywheel energy storage systems. Rockland’s offer for Beacon’s assets, including a 20 MW flywheel energy storage plant in New York, combined $5.5m in cash with a promissory note of $25m payable to the Department of Energy.

Venezuela: Italy’s ENI and Spain’s Repsol have signed a deal with state oil company PDVSA to develop the Perla field, as the country seeks to exploit its massive gas reserves to switch from being a gas importer to become a major exporter.

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