Georgia Nuclear Debate

Simone Manuel
February 28, 2019

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1: Voglte Nuclear reactor 1 and 2 on the right. Construction of reactors 3 and 4 on the left. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Georgia power is building two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle. Nuclear reactors have not been built in the United States since the meltdown at Three Mile Island, but Georgia is trying to change the tide for American nuclear energy. Plant Vogtle is Georgia's premiere nuclear site on the Savannah River just south of Augusta, and its two existing units produce, annually, nearly 17 million megawatt-hours of baseload, around the clock, electricity, and they now serve the states energy consumers with carbon-free electricity at ultra-low prices. [1] As shown in Fig. 1, Georgia is expanding the current Vogtle plant by adding 2 new AP 1000 design nuclear reactors, to give the plant a total of 4 nuclear reactors. The expansion of Plant Vogtle has posed many pros and cons for not only the state of Georgia, but for the United States.

Benefits of the Vogtle Plant Expansion

There are several benefits that come with the Vogtle Plant expansion. First off, the expansion shows how important nuclear energy is to the state and the nation. Although the United States has somewhat feared expanding their nuclear energy prowess, the country still knows the benefits of implementing this energy source. It is predicted that the addition of the 2 new nuclear reactors will supply 15% of the states energy. [2] Secondly, the new reactors will help contribute to affordable electricity. When the reactors are finished, they would power up to 500,000 homes without generating greenhouse-gas emissions. [3] Moreover, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics show the median nuclear plant operator earns an average annual wage of $91,170, so the 800 permanent jobs created by these new reactors will go a long way to boost the Georgia economy. [1] The new reactors will also provide more than 60 years of affordable energy for the state of Georgia. [2] Although the process to build these two new nuclear reactors has taken about 10 years and is still waiting to be finished, there are many benefits for Georgia and the nation, with the completion of the project.

Disadvantages of the Vogtle Plant Expansion

Although there are many benefits, there are disadvantages to the Vogtle plant expansion. Most of the disadvantages relate to money and time. Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company, first received approval to build the reactors in 2009, estimated that the reactors would cost $14 billion in total and come online in 2016 and 2017, but there were construction difficulties and the March bankruptcy of the projects lead contractor, Westinghouse, pushed back the timeline - resulting in the outcome that the reactors will not produce power until 2021 and 2022 at the earliest, and the final price tag could reach $23 billion or more. [3] The completion of the reactors have also caused a 5% increase in the utility bills of Georgia residents. Additionally, 30,000 acres of land are needed to complete the project. [1] Overall, the delay in completing this project and the amount of money that has been invested in it has caused many to debate whether or not these two nuclear reactors are necessary. Overall, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.


It is extremely important to finish the nuclear plant because it is the only one of its kind in North America, and more importantly, nuclear energy makes the most sense in a day when baseload coal plants are disappearing due to early retirements and increased regulations. [1] Secondly, Georgia consumers will benefit from the affordable and reliable energy made available from the diverse fuel mix in the state. [1] Lastly, even though this project has been a huge financial burden, the Vogtle project could help preserve Americas nuclear supply chain and expertise, which could pave the way for the beginning of greater energy security and continued prosperity from advanced reactor designs. [3] Overall this project is important to helping not only Georgia, but the United States environmentally, economically, technologically, and consequently, maintaining international nuclear superiority.

© Simone Manuel. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] C. Eaton and T. Echols, "Viewpoint: Georgia Is Pressing Forward With Nuclear Energy, Plant Vogtle Expansion," Atlanta Business Chronicle, 21 Dec 17.

[2] Z. Naidu, "Plant Vogtle Expansion," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2018.

[3] B. Plumer, "Georgia, Facing Difficult Dilemma, Keeps Nuclear Project Alive," New York Times, 21 Dec 17.