The new licensing process was adopted by Congress in 1992, but has still not been used.

Last November, as part of its Nuclear Power 2010 initiative, the US Department of Energy (DoE) invited proposals to test the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) COL process through a government-industry 50-50 cost-sharing initiative. In recent weeks, three consortia have applied:

• Dominion-led consortium, made up of Dominion, AECL

Technology, Hitachi America, Bechtel – to evaluate AECL’s ACR-700.

• A consortium led by NuStart Energy Development, consisting of Constellation Generation, Duke Energy, Electricité de France International North America, Entergy, Exelon, Southern, General Electric (GE), Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and Westinghouse – GE’s ESBWR and Westinghouse’s AP1000.

• TVA-led consortium: TVA, GE, Toshiba, USEC, Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas and Bechtel – GE’s ABWR.

The TVA-led consortium asked the DoE on 23 April to match $2 million to examine building an ABWR at TVA’s Bellefonte site in northern Alabama. TVA stopped work on the Bellefonte 1 and 2 PWRs in 1988 and 1995, respectively.

NuStart Energy Development was formed by six companies, each one of which has pledged $1 million a year plus in-kind services for seven years, totalling about $42 million. Three other companies make up the consortium led by NuStart: TVA, which will be providing in-kind services only; and the two reactor vendors GE and Westinghouse, which will be contractors to NuStart.

Since much of the work is detailed engineering design, the two reactor vendors would pay the largest share of industry costs, about $400 million. If approved, the amount matched by DoE research and development funds would average about $57 million a year for seven years.

Meanwhile, the NRC has issued its review standard for early site permit applications for possible new nuclear power plants.

The early site permit process resolves site-related issues regarding possible future construction and operation of a nuclear power plant at a site selected by an applicant. The review standard covers issues such as population density, probable maximum floods that could affect a site, stability of subsurface materials and foundations, aircraft hazards and emergency planning. The review standard also informs potential applicants and other stakeholders of the information the staff needs to perform its review.

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