Report of the Nuclear Energy Committee

Article excerpt

This report summarizes Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) activities relating to new nuclear power plant initiatives. The time frame covered by this report is June 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007.

RECENT NRC ACTIVITY RELATED TO NEW REACTOR LICENSING

I. INTRODUCTION

Momentum in NRC activity related to new plant initiatives, spurred by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) incentives, continues.1 Activities of the NRC in support of, and preparation for, these new nuclear power plant initiatives fall into three major categories: (1) activities related to Early Site Permits (ESPs); (2) activities related to Design Certification; and (3) activities in preparation for reviewing new combined license (COL) applications.

II. EARLY SITE PERMITS

The past year saw continued progress by the NRC in the issuance and review of ESPs. The purpose of the ESP process is to allow applicants to have the safety, environmental protection, and emergency preparedness aspects of prospective sites for new plants reviewed independent of a specific nuclear plant design.2 The ESP, which is initially valid for no less than ten and no more than twenty years, "also allows for a limited work authorization to perform non-safety site preparation activities, subject to redress, in advance of issuance of a [COL]."3

A. ESPs Issued

The NRC approved issuance of ESPs to Exelon Generating Company, LLC (Exelon) and System Energy Resources, Inc. (SERI), a subsidiary of Entergy Corporation, on March 8, 2007 and April 27, 2007, respectively. Exelon, which had submitted its initial ESP application to the NRC on September 25, 2003, was issued an ESP for the Clinton site, approximately six miles east of the city of Clinton, Illinois, "co-located with the existing Clinton Power Station."4 The Clinton ESP supports a future application to construct and operate additional nuclear power reactors at the ESP site with a total nuclear generating capacity of up to 6800 megawatts thermal (MWt).5 SERI, which had submitted its initial ESP application to the NRC on October 16, 2003, was issued an ESP for the Grand Gulf site located near Port Gibson, Mississippi, approximately twenty five miles south of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and adjacent to the existing Grand Gulf Nuclear Station operated by Entergy Operations, Inc.6 The SERI ESP supports a future application to construct and operate additional nuclear unit(s) at the ESP site, with total nuclear generating capacity of up to 8600 MWt, with a maximum 4300 MWt per unit.7

B. Pending ESP Applications

There are currently two pending ESP applications, one submitted by Dominion Nuclear North Anna, LLC for the North Anna ESP site, and the other by Southern Nuclear Operating Company (SNC) for property located near the Vogtle nuclear power plant about twenty three miles southeast of Augusta, Georgia.

The Dominion application is currently before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB), which held evidentiary hearings to consider issues relevant to the ESP in Spring 2007. A decision by the ASLB is expected in August 2007, with a final decision by the NRC following in December 2007.8

SNC submitted its ESP application for the Vogtle site on August 15, 2006. On September 19, 2006, the NRC notified SNC of its acceptance of the Vogtle ESP application and commencement of its detailed comprehensive review of the application.9 SNC subsequently modified its application on November 13, 2006, bringing the proposed new plant in conformance with the orientation proposed by other nuclear utilities who were considering construction of multiple new reactor plants of the same type proposed in the Vogtle ESP application.10 The notice of availability for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has been scheduled for July 7,2007.11

III. DESIGN CERTIFICATION

Momentum also continued in the NRC design certification process for new nuclear plant design.12 Reactors that have received final design approval from the NRC in recent years include Westinghouse Electric Company's AP600 and API000 designs, certified in 1999 and 2006, respectively, and GE Nuclear Energy's U. …