The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted a combined construction and operating licence to DTE Energy for construction of an Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor at the Fermi site in Michigan, USA.

The licence is the first to be granted for the 1600MW GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) reactor anywhere in the world. It follows NRC certification of the ESBWR reactor design in November 2014, after a nine-year licensing process.

DTE Energy has not committed to building the new plant, but says it will keep the option open for long-term planning purposes. The facility will be built on the site of the existing Fermi 2 nuclear power plant, which started up in 1988.

The Fermi 3 COL application was submitted in 2008, well before the Fukushima Daiichi accident of 2011 and NRC has imposed conditions on the licence that address the regulator’s post-Fukushima requirements for mitigation strategies, spent fuel pool instrumentation, and emergency preparedness plans and procedures. The regulator also requires monitoring and analysis of the reactor’s steam dryer during initial plant startup, in line with current procedures for existing boiling-water reactors approved to operate at increased power levels.

GEH congratulated DTE on the receipt of the new licence, and GEH president and CEO Caroline Reda described as an "important milestone" for the ESBWR.

A second ESBWR project, Dominion Virginia Power’s North Anna 3 is expected to receive a licence in 2016. The milestone also paves the way for construction of the ESBWR elsewhere in the world, potentially Brazil, India, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sweden and Vietnam, according to GEH.