SAN FRANCISCO—Southern Company’s David Ratcliffe, chief executive of the Atlanta-based electric utility, was honored with the industry’s William S. Lee Award for Leadership at the Nuclear Energy Institute’s annual conference here. The award comes as the company is doing preparatory site work for the planned expansion of the Plant Vogtle nuclear power station in eastern Georgia.
“David is a trailblazer in the revitalization of the U.S. nuclear energy industry,” said Gary Gates, NEI board chairman and president and chief executive officer of the Omaha Public Power District. “He possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience in the technical and business aspects that make a great organizational leader. He also has clarity of vision and a resolve to fulfill the responsibilities of his position that one rarely encounters. Through unparalleled preparation, he has put Southern Company in the optimum position to successfully build two new reactors at Plant Vogtle on time and within budget, providing a roadmap for the rest of the industry.”
Under Ratcliffe’s leadership, Southern Company has worked effectively with a variety of stakeholders and policymakers to position the company to meet rising electricity demand in its service territory by doubling the number of reactors at its Plant Vogtle facility.
Earlier this year, Southern Company received the federal government’s first conditional offer for a clean-energy loan guarantee for a new nuclear energy facility. The company has a license application for the Plant Vogtle expansion pending before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and expects the 1,100 megawatt reactors to begin operation in 2016 and 2017.
Under a limited work authorization approved by the NRC, Southern Company’s Georgia Power subsidiary last year began excavating the site where the new reactors are planned, and two months ago began placing backfill soil into the area excavated for Vogtle Unit 3. The NRC approved Southern Company’s early site permit application for the project last August. Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue in April 2009 signed into law a measure that allows the company to recover financing costs while the new electric generating facilities are under construction. The recovery measure will reduce the cost of the project and result in a cost-savings to ratepayers of approximately $2 billion.
“David’s contributions to the nuclear industry have been immeasurable and his representation of the industry has been immense,” said Marvin Fertel, NEI president and CEO. “Under his leadership, Southern Company is on a path to usher in a new era of nuclear energy construction that will have enormously positive repercussions for U.S. energy security and economic growth.”
Southern Company’s nuclear subsidiary operates three nuclear power stations, with six total reactors, in Georgia and Alabama.
Ratcliffe joined Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power in 1971 as a biologist. He rose to the helm of the company in 2004 and now serves as chairman, president and chief executive officer. He has served in various leadership positions within NEI, including service on its board of directors and executive committee. In recent years, he also has served as chairman of the Edison Electric Institute and as a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
The industry’s top leadership award was renamed in William S. Lee’s honor following his death in 1996. Lee, one of the industry’s most determined safety advocates, was chairman emeritus of Duke Power Co. and was the industry’s acknowledged leader. He was the first recipient of the industry’s leadership award in 1995.
“It’s an honor to be linked to the name of Bill Lee and receive this recognition on behalf of the employees of Georgia Power, Southern Nuclear and public leaders across the state of Georgia. Bill was a true pioneer in our industry,” Ratcliffe said. “Nuclear power is an option for meeting the nation’s future energy needs due in large part to leaders like him who have maintained the excellent performance of U.S. plants over the past 30 years.”
Nuclear energy is the nation’s largest carbon-free source of electricity, and its ability to reliably provide large amounts of electricity is evidenced by the 90 percent average capacity factors that the industry has achieved for the past decade.
Four Southern Company reactors already operating in Georgia supply nearly 25 percent of the state’s total electricity generation.