US energy secretary Spencer Abraham announced last month that the Department of Energy (DoE) is proceeding with the next phase of the Nuclear Power 2010 initiative. The DoE will award up to $3 million in fiscal year 2002 to nuclear generating companies or utilities to initiate demonstration of the early site permit (ESP) process for US sites. It anticipates that cost-shared public private partnership (PPP) agreements will be signed later this spring.
By sharing in the cost of selecting sites for new nuclear plants and submitting applications to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for early site approval, the DoE hopes to "remove a major hurdle to building a new US nuclear plant by 2010." The DoE is seeking proposals by 15 April, 2002, from utilities and generating companies to conduct a 30-month demonstration project for an ESP application.
As part of the demonstration project, industry will prepare, submit and obtain NRC approval of the ESP application, and will provide a report to the DoE summarising the "lessons learned from the demonstration" to improve industry ESP guidelines.
The ESP process was established by the NRC for utilities to complete the site evaluation component of nuclear plant licensing before a decision is made to build a plant. With such a permit approved, an applicant can proceed with a licence application to the NRC, providing a far more predictable and streamlined process toward building a new plant.
Expansion of nuclear power is a key recommendation of president Bush's National Energy Policy. Under the Nuclear Power 2010 initiative, the DoE proposes to match industry investments of as much as $48.5 million over the next two years to explore sites that can host new nuclear plants; demonstrate key NRC processes designed to make licensing of new plants more efficient, effective, and predictable; and conduct research needed to make the safest and most advanced nuclear plant technologies available in the USA.