Entries in Atlanta (5)


Two New Nuclear Reactors Win Federal Approval -- The construction of two new nuclear reactors won federal approval Thursday, making them the first to be built in the U.S. in the decades since the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979.

The U.S. Nuclear and Regulatory Commission gave the go-ahead to Southern Company of Atlanta to add two reactors to its existing pair at the Vogtle Plant in Waynesboro, Ga.

Unit 3 is projected to begin operating in 2016 and Unit 4 in 2017.

Tom Fanning, CEO of Southern Company, heralded the move as a "major step" at a news conference.

"The two new units at Vogtle will set a new standard of safety and efficiency in nuclear energy," he said, adding that the company's budget and goals are on schedule.

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Only one member of the five-person U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Chairman Gregory Jaczko, dissented, citing safety concerns following a triple meltdown last year at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan.

"Significant safety enhancements have already been recommended as a result of learning the lessons from Fukushima, and there is still more work ahead of us," Jackzki said in a statement. "Knowing this, I cannot support issuing these licenses as if Fukushima never happened."

Scott Burnell, a spokesman for the NRC, told ABC News that Southern Company will have to meet a very specific list of safety criteria and standards set forth for the operation of new nuclear reactors in a post-Three Mile Island era.

"The license that we will be issuing includes both permission to build the reactor and conditional permission to operate the reactor, and only if the acceptance criteria is met," Burnell said.

During the review process, Burnell said, the community was given "several opportunities" to voice its opinions about the environmental impact of the project.

The two new units represent a $14 billion capital investment in Georgia, according to a release issued by the Southern Company.

Peter Bradford, who was a member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission during the time of the Three Mile Island crisis, said building the new reactors wasn't a reasonable economic decision.

"The problem has never been construction permits," Bradford told ABC News. "Investors just don't want to take the risk."

There are currently 104 nuclear reactors in the U.S.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Bank of America Tower in Atlanta Foreclosed; Sells for Half Price

Chris Rank/Bloomberg via Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- The recent forced public auction of Bank of America’s signature 55-story office tower in Atlanta is yet another example of the U.S. foreclosure crisis.

Experts say Atlanta’s troubles are the result of overbuilding and inflated office building prices due to the issuance of commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS). Some $5.8 billion worth of five-year office loans, bundled into CMBS, must now be refinanced nationwide.

With so much debt, experts predict that more distressed properties will come into the market, and the price per square foot of commercial office space will continue to fall.

“It’s a fine building, a beautiful building, and still very much a landmark,” Atlanta real estate expert Kirk Diamond told Bloomberg News. “It just needs to be recapitalized.”

The tallest tower in the state went for $235 million at auction, after owner BentleyForbes missed mortgage payments.

BentleyForbes bought the building from Bank of America Corp. in 2006 for $436 million. Bank of America also sold what had been its namesake office tower in San Francisco, now called 555 California Street, for $1.05 billion in 2005. 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Starbucks to Serve Beer, Wine at Select Stores Later This Year

Starbucks Corporation(SEATTLE) -- Ordering a "tall one" at Starbucks will eventually take on a whole new meaning at a few select stores.

The Seattle-based coffee giant said that it will be serving beer and wine in up to six stores in Southern California toward the end of 2012, with other locations in Atlanta and Chicago following suit.

The company rolled out serving alcohol in 2010 at its experimental Olive Way cafe in Seattle, with beers costing $5 each and glasses of wines listed between $7 and $9.

Figuring that serving adult beverages and premium food is the wave of the future, Clarice Turner, Starbucks' senior vice president of U.S. operations, said Monday, "As our customers transition from work to home, many are looking for a warm and inviting place to unwind and connect with the people they care about."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Georgia Couple Pleads With Bank of America in Music Video

Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- A frustrated Georgia couple whose closing date for a Bank of America loan has been delayed three times decided to plead their case through song in a homemade music video that quickly caught the bank’s attention.

The couple, Ken and Meredith Williams, has been waiting 79 days to close a loan for a new house. They have been paying fines to the seller for the delays, including $50 a day for the past week.

“Bank of America you’re making me so mad. I want to buy this house, really bad,” Ken Williams sings in the video while playing the guitar. “My credit score is 798. Don’t worry ’cause my payments will never be late.”

Friday is their fourth scheduled closing date and, as of that morning, they had not yet heard from the bank. But it looks like their musical plea was a success. In a statement to ABC News, Bank of America spokeswoman Christina Beyer Toth said the following:

“We apologize for the delay in closing Mr. Williams’ loan. We are on target to close his loan today.  For the inconvenience, we have provided him a credit at closing.”

One of places where Williams sings in the video is in front of a Bank of America in Lawrenceville, while his wife dances around in the background.

Meredith Williams initially had the idea of putting together a timeline of all of the delays and using Twitter to get someone’s attention using Bank of America’s customer service Twitter account, @BofA_help.

“We’re more than qualified. We’re buying a really cheap house and it shouldn’t be really difficult,” Ken Williams told ABC News. “We just felt really powerless like we had no leverage.”

Ken Williams works in marketing and his wife works in development. Both work at large organizations in downtown Atlanta and wanted to move to a smaller house closer to work.

While Meredith Williams was writing the timeline, Ken Williams began writing the song. Meanwhile, their friends were bombarding the Twitter account with messages about the couple. They set up a blog with the timeline, their story and the video.

“We didn’t want to sound unreasonable,” he said. “A lot of people are mad at Bank of America for different reasons and I didn’t want to be another angry voice with profanity, so we thought we’d take a different angle with it.”

The upbeat video is both funny and direct.

“Why can’t a house go fast when a buyer’s got cash, pre-approval and two cats?” he sings. “It takes time, obviously, a month or even two but now we’re looking at three.”

Ken Williams made the video on Saturday and posted it to YouTube on Sunday afternoon. By 10 a.m. on Monday morning, Bank of America called the couple.

“I can certainly tell that a fire has been lit under the people who have been working on our loans,” Ken Williams said. “They’ve become very responsive all of a sudden.”

He said the matter “escalated really fast” and the couple received phone calls from a representative of the bank’s CEO.

Even though Ken Williams has not heard from the bank yet about today’s scheduled closing, he hopes this will be the big day.

“All I want is to have a home, and a front yard for my garden gnome. Bank you’ve got to close this loan!” Williams sings at the end of the song. “We can sign the papers and grab a beer, then you take my money for 30 years. Bank you’ve got to close this loan!”

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Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Thousands Camp Out for Job Fair as Jobless Rate Rises

Comstock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Thousands of unemployed people waited overnight, camping out in their business suits and office heels and braving the tormenting heat in Atlanta to stand in line for a job fair Thursday. Authorities treated 20 people for heat exhaustion as they struggled to keep the line moving and get people moved inside.

The incredible turnout at the job fair comes on the heels of the state labor commissioner's announcement that Georgia's jobless rate rose.

The state unemployment rate increased to 10.1 percent in July from 9.9 percent in June. The unemployment rate for African-Americans stands at 15.9 percent, far above the national rate of 9.1 percent.

July marks the 48th consecutive month that Georgia has exceeded the national unemployment rate.

The line was full of hopefuls who waited for hours in a line that wrapped around the Atlanta Technical College where the event was held.

The "For the People Jobs Initiative," hosted by U.S. Reps. John Lewis and Hank Johnson and sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, is a series of job fairs and town halls at some of the urban areas hit hardest by unemployment and the financial crisis.

The enormous turnout in Georgia created miles of traffic that clogged southwest Atlanta.

Thousands showed up for an opportunity to meet the 90 employers who attended the event, eager to jumpstart their job search. The fair provided job seminars such as resume writing and mortgage modification workshops.

The immense crowd at the two-day fair is another unneeded reminder of the dire state of the American economy.

"I believe the recent lack of leadership in Washington is a contributing factor to the overall lack of confidence in the economy," said Mark Butler, Georgia's labor commissioner. "Due to this lack of confidence, we are seeing a business community that is hesitant to make further investments in this economy."

The general inefficiency in Washington is precisely the reason why the Congressional Black Caucus launched the fair, said Mahen Gunaratna, a representative for Florida congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who will host Miami's Job Initiative fair.

"The Congressional Black Caucus decided to take matters into their own hands," said Gunaratna. "They are tired of Republicans' inaction that prevents bills from moving forward. This is a real tangible opportunity for our constituents."

And the people in the lines have not yet given up despite the relentless weather, miles of traffic, lines and months of unemployment.

Two more "For the People Jobs Initiative" fairs are set to take place in Miami and Los Angeles later this month.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio