Underscoring his Administration’s dedication to jumpstarting the nation’s nuclear power industry, President Barack Obama announced that the Department of Energy (DOE) has offered conditional commitments for a total of $8.33 billion in loan guarantees for the construction and operation of two new nuclear reactors at a plant in Burke, Ga. The project is scheduled to be the first U.S. nuclear power plant to break ground in nearly three decades.

“To meet our growing energy needs and prevent the worst consequences of climate change, we need to increase our supply of nuclear power, and today’s announcement helps to move us down that path. But energy leaders and experts recognize that as long as producing carbon pollution carries no cost, traditional plants that use fossil fuels will be more cost-effective than plants that use nuclear fuel. That is why we need comprehensive energy and climate legislation to create a system of incentives to make clean energy profitable,” Obama said at a speech at the Lanham, Md., National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee site. “What I hope this announcement underscores is both our commitment to meeting the energy challenge and our willingness to look at this challenge not as a partisan issue, but as a matter far more important than politics.”

The two new 1,100 megawatt Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactors at the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant will supplement the two existing reactor units at the facility. According to industry projections, the project will create approximately 3,500 on-site construction jobs. Once the nuclear reactors become operational, the project will create 800 permanent jobs.

Project sponsors include Georgia Power Co., Oglethorpe Power Corp., the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and the city of Dalton, Ga.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorized DOE to issue loan guarantees for projects that avoid, reduce or sequester air pollutants or anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and employ new or significantly improved technologies as compared to technologies in service in the United States at the time the guarantee is issued. These are the first conditional commitments for loan guarantees to be offered by DOE for a nuclear power facility since enactment of the 2005 law.

As one part of the conditional loan guarantee deal, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission must determine if the AP1000 fulfills the regulatory requirements for a construction and operating license.