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The move will pave the way for the construction of the first nuclear power plants in America for more than three decades. Financial assistance will be given to build two 1,150-megawatt reactors to Southern Company's two-unit site south of Augusta in Georgia in the first of billion of dollars of loans guarantees allocated to the nuclear power industry.

Mr Obama has said he wants to use nuclear power and other alternative sources of energy in his effort to create a more self-sufficient energy policy for America.  In his first State of the Union address last month, Mr Obama declared it was time to build a "new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country". He said nuclear power could play an important role in creating "clean energy jobs" and more efficient energy.

In his budget, Mr Obama proposed tripling the funds available for nuclear loans guarantees to $54.5bn (£34.7bn) in the coming fiscal year.

A Washington official, who confirmed the announcement next week, told reporters that proposed new reactors would generate power for some 1.4 million people and employ about 850 people. He added that the Georgia project would create about 3,000 construction jobs.

In Britain, plans are already under way to build two new nuclear power stations as part of a similar drive to improve energy security. EDF, the energy giant 80pc-owned by the French government, is planning to build the country's first nuclear stations in decades at Sizewell in Suffolk and Hinkley Point in Somerset.

There have been no new licenses issued to nuclear plants in the America since 1979 when a major accident at the Three Mile Island reactor in Pennsylvania shifted public and politician support for the industry. America has 104 nuclear reactors in operation across 31 states.

They provide about 20pc of the nation's electricity but around 70pc of the power from environmentally-friendly resources. However, experts have warned that the new plants will still take years to become fully functioning, despite this week's announcement.

A spokesman for America's Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the plants still need to get construction and operating licences which may not be granted until 2011 or 2012.

 
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