ORLANDO, Fla., June 4, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Southern Company today received the 85th Annual EEI Edison Award, the electric utility industry's most prestigious honor, for the company's efforts in leading the nuclear renaissance. The company made immense progress toward building two new reactors at the site of subsidiary Georgia Power's Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4 by successfully obtaining the first combined construction and operating license in the United States in more than three decades. Southern is being recognized for "distinguished leadership, innovation and contribution to the advancement of the electric industry for the benefit of all," explained EEI President Thomas R. Kuhn.
Southern Company was selected from a field of four finalists by a judging panel composed of outgoing EEI Chairman and Dominion Chairman, President and CEO Thomas F. Farrell, along with several other retired EEI chairmen.
"Southern Company showed true leadership and diligence in making the amount of progress they did at Plant Vogtle," said Kuhn. "It takes a great deal of work, ingenuity and innovation to build the first U.S. nuclear energy units to be approved in 33 years, but Southern Company knew that the benefits of doing so would be immeasurable. The company's big-picture approach to ensuring the advancement of Plant Vogtle is a prime example of the commitment our industry has to providing reliable service."
Southern Company — which serves approximately 4.4 million customers throughout four states — began pre-construction activities on Plant Vogtle in summer 2009. The early stages of site excavation and foundation leveling went smoothly, as did meeting each regulatory milestone. At that time, Americans viewed nuclear power positively as a resourceful way to provide electricity. Then, on March 11, 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster occurred and threw the nuclear power industry's — as well as Plant Vogtle's — future into question.
Despite the uncertainties surrounding the future of nuclear power in the wake of Fukushima, Southern Company was determined to continue the development of Plant Vogtle's Units 3 and 4. The company began outreach efforts focused on explaining the safety of the country's current nuclear fleet and that the proposed new reactors were to be even safer.
Despite these events, 2011 was the year with the most significant activity for Plant Vogtle. Southern Company was able to conduct pre-construction activities that transformed the site of the two new units. Several million cubic yards of special soils were backfilled and compacted during this time and the nuclear islands for Units 3 and 4 were lined with retaining walls. Many other construction goals, including office and training facilities, switchyard upgrades and new IT systems, were completed on schedule and on budget.
"Southern Company, and its Georgia Power operating company, worked tirelessly to advance the expansion of the two new reactors at Plant Vogtle, and in doing so, paved a path for other nuclear power operators to follow," Kuhn said. "The company is proud to lead the nuclear energy resurgence in the U.S., and will continue to be committed to overcoming any challenges to keep Plant Vogtle's two new units on track for commercial operation in 2016 and 2017. They are truly worthy of this distinguished industry award."
The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) is the association of U.S. shareholder-owned electric companies. Our members serve 95 percent of the ultimate customers in the shareholder-owned segment of the industry, and represent approximately 70 percent of the U.S. electric power industry. We also have more than 65 International electric companies as Affiliate members, and more than 170 industry suppliers and related organizations as Associate members.
SOURCE Edison Electric Institute