North Carolina-based Duke Power may seek a combined construction and operating licence (COL) from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to build a new nuclear plant, making it the fourth 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 three consortia seeking licences, 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 AP1000 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+ 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.
Another 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. Tennessee Valley Authority is also 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 2010 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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