Environmental approval for new Fermi unit

14 January 2013

The US nuclear regulator has found no environmental issue that should prevent Detroit Edison from building and operating an Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) at its existing Fermi nuclear power plant site in Michigan.

ESBWR (GE Hitachi)
GE-Hitachi's ESBWR design

An environmental impact assessment (EIS) from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission included a staff analysis considering and weighing the impacts of constructing and operating a new unit at the Fermi site and at alternative sites, as well as mitigation measures available for reducing or avoiding adverse impacts. The conclusion was that there are no environmentally preferable or obviously superior sites. After considering the environmental issues, the NRC staff's preliminary recommendation to the commission was that the a license to build and operate the new reactor be issued as proposed.

A notice of availability of the final EIS on Fermi 3 will be published by the NRC in the Federal Register on 18 January, ending the NRC's official environmental review. The other main part of the technical review, the safety evaluation, is under way but is not expected to be completed until full certification for GE-Hitachi's (GE-H's) ESBWR design has been given.

The NRC issued a final safety evaluation report and final design approval for the ESBWR design in March 2011, in which it said it had found the design to be safe and technically acceptable. Full certification - expected to be completed this year - is valid for 15 years and allows a utility to reference the design in a COL application.

Detroit Edison, a subsidiary of DTE Energy, submitted its application for Fermi 3 potential new reactor in September 2008. The project serves as the reference application for the ESBWR and GE-H is providing Detroit Edison with technical support for its licence application.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News