Isotopes and new build for PSEG?

03 March 2010

Public Service Enterprise Group's (PSEG's) Hope Creek nuclear power station could be set to follow in the footsteps of Exelon's Clinton plant after submitting a proposal to produce cobalt-60 at the plant. Separately, the company is reported to be planning to submit an Early Site Permit (ESP) application for a new nuclear plant.

Hope Creek
Hope Creek - second US Co-60 producer? (Image: NRC)

The New Jersey-based company has submitted a proposal to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a pilot program to explore the production of cobalt-60 (Co-60), a radioisotope with uses in medicine and industry including cancer therapy, sterilisation of medical equipment, food irradiation and materials testing.
PSEG is seeking permission to insert up to 12 modified fuel assemblies with rods containing cobalt-59 pellets into the reactor's core. These would absorb neutrons during reactor operation, becoming Co-60. The pilot program would gather data to verify that the modified fuel assemblies perform satisfactorily in service prior to use on a production basis.
This will require an amendment to the plant's operating licence to give PSEG permission to generate and transfer Co-60 under the NRC's regulations for 'byproduct' material. If the amendment is granted, the company plans to insert the modified assemblies during a planned refuelling outage in autumn 2010.
The scheme to produce C-60 is similar to one at Exelon's Clinton plant announced in January, and comes at a time when supplies of the isotope have been hit by the extended outage of Canada's National Research Unit (NRU) reactor, erstwhile producer of up to 80% of the world's Co-60.
New build application for PSEG?
Reports in the US media suggest that PSEG is preparing to submit an early site permit (ESP) application to the NRC for a fourth nuclear power plant in New Jersey.
PSEG already has three operating reactors (PWRs) at the same New Jersey site - the two pressurised water reactor (PWR) Salem units plus the single Hope Creek boiling water reactor (BWR) - and has applied for licence extensions for all three. According to reports in the Press of Atlantic City and other US news publications citing company spokespeople, PSEG is planning to submit an ESP for a fourth unit at the site in May.
An ESP application takes about 2 years to process and, if granted, provides approval in principle that a site is suitable for the possible future construction and operation of a new nuclear power plant. The ESP is valid for 20 years, but a combined construction and operation licence (COL) must be issued for the site before any significant construction can occur. Neither an ESP nor a COL constitutes a commitment to build any plant.
A new unit at Salem or Hope Creek does not currently appear on the NRC's list of the COL applications it expects to receive over the next few years.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News