The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has voted unanimously to issue an Early Site Permit (ESP) for Entergy's Grand Gulf site.
The ESP confirms in principle that a site is suitable for the possible future construction and operation of a new nuclear power plant, and enables a company to complete a vital part of the planning permission process before committing to the large capital outlay required to build a new plant. The permit will be valid for 20 years, allowing the company - or any other potential applicant interested in the site - to apply for a combined construction and operation licence (COL).
Applauding the NRC decision, US energy secretary Sam Bodman said, "The Department of Energy is proud to foster an environment where nuclear power - a safe and emissions-free source of energy - can begin to thrive." He added, "We're seeing a lot of momentum in the energy world; while promoting nuclear energy is good policy for government, it can also be good business."
The Grand Gulf ESP is the second to be granted by the NRC. The first was granted to Exelon's Clinton site earlier this month. Two further ESP applications, for Dominion Nuclear's North Anna and Southern Nuclear Operating Company's Vogtle, are under review. Final decisions are currently expected by the end of 2007 for North Anna.
Entergy is part of the NuStart consortium, which plans to submit a COL application for a General Electric Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) at the Grand Gulf site, already home to a 1300 MWe BWR which started commercial operation in 1985. NuStart does not expect to be in a position to complete the COL application until at least 2008, and the NRC review process for the COL is anticipated to take until at least 2010.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
US Department of Energy
US Nuclear Energy Institute: Licensing New Nuclear Power Plants
WNA's US Nuclear Power Industry information paper
WNN: Exelon's Clinton site suitable for new nuclear