Bid possible for third US nuclear plant

24 February 2005

North Carolina-based Duke Power may seek a combined construction and operating license (COL) from the US NRC to build a new nuclear plant, making it the third group planning to explore a new licensing process aimed at cutting development costs. The COL is a new NRC product designed to streamline what had been a long and risky licensing process by letting utilities achieve substantial approval for new plants before they start building.

The US Department of Energy (DoE) offers matching funds to help utilities and reactor designers create applications to test the COL process. DoE is already subsidising two consortia seeking licenses, including NuStart Energy which comprises Exelon, Entergy Nuclear, Constellation Generation Group, EdF International North America, Southern Company, Duke, Westinghouse Electric and GE Energy. NuStart estimates its two applications, for the Westinghouse AP-1,000 and the GE Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor, will cost $800 million for preparation and other work, and that they could be submitted in early 2008. NuStart has already received $4 million from the DoE to begin the COL process and, if successful, could develop a new plant by 2014. The consortium plans to select a final reactor technology and a site by 2007.

Duke, at the initial stages of identifying and selecting both a site and reactor technology, is looking at generation III-plus light water reactor designs from Areva, General Electric and Westinghouse in addition to its activities with NuStart which is evaluating the Westinghouse and GE systems.

The second consortium including Dominion Resources, General Electric and Bechtel Power has received $9 million from the DoE to pursue the licensing process. Dominion has applied for an early site permit on the North Anna River in northern Virginia, site of an abandoned earlier reactor development. The Tennessee Valley Authority is also reportedly exploring the COL process.

No new US reactors have been licensed for building since before the partial meltdown at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island in 1979 but the DoE’s 2006 budget includes $56 million as part of a seven-year, $1.1 billion effort to order a new nuclear plant by 2009 and open it by 2014. It is expected to take about 30 months for the NRC to review the initial new reactor applications.

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