Georgia Residents Still Support Expansion of Local Nuclear Plant Despite Japan Crisis

The crisis at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant has sent political shock waves throughout the world, but support for expanding a nuclear power plant in Georgia remains high among residents in the area.

As nuclear watchdogs, such as the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, call on President Obama to put funding of new reactors on hold, such calls are facing resistance near the site of the Vogtle nuclear plant a three-hour drive east of Atlanta.

"They put a lot of money in Burke County, Burke County School System and they employ a lot of people out here -- especially during these times," resident Michael Hammock said.

The plant has been operating for more than two decades in Burke County, which sits on the western bank of the Savannah River. With more than 12 percent unemployment, word of expansion comes as welcome news to this small, rural community.

Construction is already under way as Georgia Power expects regulatory approval within a year to add two new reactors to the pair already in operation. The utility expects to double its workforce of 800 at the site and says the new reactors will have state-of-the-art safety systems that kick in automatically, even during a power outage.

"It's a very efficient design," said Joseph "Buzz" Miller, executive vice president of nuclear development for Georgia Power. "We're confident that the redundancy and the newness of that design will accomplish the job of protecting the public."

Sirens are positioned throughout the community to alert residents in the event of an emergency. Many of those residents say they have confidence in existing evacuation plans and, for them, the benefits of nuclear power -- including jobs -- far outweigh its risks.

"So far, so good," said Carlos Proctor. "I've been here all my life."