A panel that advises the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has determined that Atlanta-based utility Southern Cos. and its utility partners can build and operate two AP1000 nuclear power units at its Vogtle site in Waynesboro, Ga., “without undue risk to the health and safety of the public.” It reports that a final construction and operating license should be issued. The opinion, issued on Jan. 24, will be considered by the five-member commission when it makes a final decision on Southern’s license at the site later this year. The Shaw Group Inc., Baton Rouge, La., and Westinghouse Corp., Pittsburgh, Pa., have the engineering, procurement and construction contract for the $14-billion, 2,200-MW plant. Preliminary construction work has begun on the site. Southern and its partners received an $8.3-billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Energy Dept. It is the only company so far to receive a guarantee.