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Years of shifting and smoothing Georgia red clay paid off today, as the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) voted to allow construction of two new nuclear reactors (pdf) at the Plant Vogtle nuclear power station near Augusta. Atlanta–based utility giant Southern Co. will soon have permission to complete construction and operate two AP1000 type nuclear reactors designed by Westinghouse.

But what were initially lauded as the first reactors of a nuclear renaissance when proposed a decade ago are more likely to be the exceptions that prove the rule of no new nuclear construction in the U.S. Only this twin set of reactors in Georgia, another pair in South Carolina and the completion of an old reactor in Tennessee are likely to be built in the U.S. for at least the next decade. "We won't build large numbers of new nuclear plants in the U.S. in the near term," says Marvin Fertel, president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, a lobbying group for the nuclear industry.

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