The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is to issue an Early Site Permit (ESP) to Entergy affiliate System Energy Resources Inc for the Grand Gulf site near Port Gibson in Mississippi for a second unit.

The second ESP approved by the NRC, passed by a 5-0 vote, determines the site is suitable for possible future construction and operation of a nuclear power plant.

The permit will be valid for up to 20 years but significant construction will require an additional Combined Operating Licence (COL).

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Pete Domenici commented that the move is “another sign that our nation is undergoing a nuclear renaissance.”

The Department of Energy also applauded the development, with Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman saying “We’re seeing a lot of momentum in the nuclear world; while promoting nuclear energy is good policy for government, it can also be good business. NRC approval of two Early Site Permits in just one month represents a major accomplishment in the Bush Administration’s effort to improve the nuclear regulatory processes while still demonstrating its effectiveness.”

This ESP approval culminates a four-year, cost-shared project between the DoE and Entergy aimed at demonstrating the new and untested licensing process. Exelon and Dominion are also in the same programme.

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