French dignitaries visit Plant Vogtle to observe new design

Plant Vogtle

Southern Company is all booked up for tours for the rest of the year as groups come into Burke County from all over the world. (WRDW-TV / June 18, 2012)

News 12 at First at Five / Monday, June 18, 2012

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. -- As foot by foot of concrete is poured, two new nuclear reactors come a little closer to reality, and officials traveled all the way from France to Burke County to see it for themselves.

"It's very impressive. First, I saw the nuclear power plant of Vogtle 1 and 2, which are now operating, and they do very, very well. And I saw, also, the work site where you are building the Vogtle 3 and 4," said Bernard Bigot, the chairman of the French Atomic Energy Commission.

It's a government agency in France that looks at alternative energy, including nuclear power. Bigot's goal was to learn about the old part of Plant Vogtle as well as the new.

"For me, it's just the best thing you could expect to see the work process from the very early nuclear power plant to the most advanced one," Bigot said.

The two advanced ones are Westinghouse AP1000 reactors. They're the first to be built in the United States and some of the only to be built in the world.

"It is building and growing right in front of our eyes, so we're excited about the work that's being done here," said Chris Womack, the executive vice president of Southern Company.

Womack says America's nuclear renaissance is happening here, and the whole world is watching.

"It's an opportunity to let them see the work we're doing here at Vogtle but also an opportunity for them to see Georgia -- the State of Georgia -- and Waynesboro and the Augusta community," he said.

He says that's why Bigot is here -- to learn. The Vietnamese ambassador recently visited as well. Southern Company is all booked up for tours for the rest of the year as groups come into Burke County from all over the world.

The French officials also visited the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility at Savannah River Site on Monday afternoon. Mixed oxide fuel is derived from nuclear weapons and is made into fuel for nuclear reactors. France uses a lot of it, and they're particularly interested in the MOX facility being built at SRS. Bigot says Congress should continue to fund it. He says MOX will be safe and effective for the United States, just like France.

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