Southern Co. has been performing tests there needed to apply for an initial permit for a nuclear plant, company spokesman Steve Higginbottom said Wednesday.
The company plans to apply for that first permit next year. The permit requires the company to submit environmental and geological information about the land. Southern Co. is doing the testing at the Plant Vogtle site to get that information, Higginbottom said.
But Higginbottom said the company has not yet made a decision to build a new nuclear plant there.
No new nuclear power plant projects have been licensed since the 1979 partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. Construction on the two existing nuclear units at Plant Vogtle began before that, although the units were not completed until the late 1980s.
The Bush administration has been promoting nuclear power and supported a new, streamlined permitting process to encourage utilities to try again.
Higginbottom said a new nuclear power plant would take about 10 years to build. In addition to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the project would need approval from the Georgia Public Service Commission and state environmental regulators.
In the meantime, the company has been meeting with community leaders in Waynesboro to talk about a new plant.
``Southern Co., and Southern Nuclear and Georgia Power, have been very helpful in keeping us abreast of their plans and what they're doing,'' Waynesboro Mayor Jesse Stone said.
Stone said Waynesboro and the surrounding county supported a new nuclear plant at Vogtle and that the original 1970s plans there called for four plants, not the current two.
``We always wanted those two more,'' he said.
But environmental activists, are opposed to the idea of a new nuclear plant. They say the original Plant Vogtle cost overruns should discourage investment in a new nuclear plant.
``This diverts time and money from cheaper and safer and more resilient energy alternatives that are going to serve local communities far better than nuclear power can,'' said Rita Kilpatrick, director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
``It's an unsafe technology, with phenomenal costs and risks,'' she said