The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has extended the construction permit for the unfinished Bellefonte unit 1 in Alabama. It has also confirmed what actions must be taken before it will authorize the restart of the North Anna plant, off line since an earthquake in August.
The construction permit for Bellefonte 1 was originally granted in 1974. It was suspended in 1988, when Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) decided to halt work on the project, but the NRC agreed in 2009 to reinstate the permit. With the reinstated permit due to expire on 1 October 2011, TVA lodged an application for an extension in October 2010. The NRC has now agreed to that extension, meaning that the construction permit will remain valid until 1 October 2020.
The board of TVA announced in August that it would complete the 1260 MWe Babcock & Wilcox pressurized water reactor at Bellefonte in a $4.9 billion project that should see it begin operation by 2020. Work began on two units at Bellefonte in the 1970s, but was halted in the 1980s during a period of rising costs and falling power demand. Unit 1 is currently considered to be 55% complete.
TVA will be required to provide an account of the current state of construction and work remaining when it requests permission to return to active construction of the plant.
Post-quake requirements for North Anna
The two-unit North Anna nuclear power plant, off line since an earthquake on 23 August, will not be allowed to restart until operator Dominion Generation can demonstrate to the regulator's satisfaction that the plant is safe to operate.
The NRC has formally notified Dominion of actions that must be completed at the Virginia plant before it will authorize a restart. A Confirmatory Action Letter issued by the regulator reiterates that since the magnitude 5.8 earthquake exceeded the plant's design parameters, the station must remain shut down until the operator can demonstrate to the NRC that no functional damage occurred to "those features necessary for continued operation without undue risk to the health and safety of the public."
NRC inspectors and experts will also conduct additional inspections at the plant to verify that the prescribed actions have been taken. The NRC will also complete a safety evaluation regarding the restart, and says it will issue written permission for Dominion to restart the plant when it can demonstrate to the NRC's satisfaction that the plant is safe to operate.
Dominion has already told the regulator that it has found no significant damage to equipment as a result of the quake.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News