Loan guarantee sought for North Anna 3

18 August 2008

Dominion has submitted the first part of an application with the US Department of Energy (DoE) for a loan guarantee for a potential third reactor at its North Anna site in Virginia.

North Anna 
North Anna (Image: Dominion)
Dominion submitted the application on 15 August through its Dominion Virginia Power subsidiary. It is the second such application for a federal loan guarantee for a new nuclear power unit. A week earlier, Constellation submitted an application for a potential third reactor at its Calvert Cliffs plant. In addition, USEC has applied for a loan guarantee for its American Centrifuge uranium enrichment plant.

Mark McGettrick, president and CEO of Dominion Generation, said: "Today's filing is another important step in the process we began more than seven years ago to position ourselves to be among the first to get a licence for a new nuclear unit."

The DoE loan guarantee program was established by the US Energy Policy Act of 2005 to assist companies pursuing the licensing of new nuclear units to finance the first wave of new commercial reactors in the USA. If Dominion's project is selected under this program, the federal government could guarantee all of the project's debt so long as it does not represent more than 80% of the project's qualified construction costs. Congress has appropriated $18.5 billion to support the nuclear loan guarantee program and will accept applications until early September.

Dominion filed an application with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in November 2007 for a combined construction and operation licence (COL) for a new reactor at its existing North Anna nuclear power. The filing closely followed an announcement that the NRC had granted an early site permit (ESP) for the site.

Dominion has said that it expects the NRC to issue a COL for North Anna 3 in 2010 and that construction could potentially start that same year, provided that regulatory bodies in Virginia and North Carolina also approve the project. The company anticipates the new unit to begin commercial operation by 2015 at the earliest.

In anticipation of receiving a COL, Dominion has already signed contracts with GE to purchase heavy forgings for the future reactor. The contracts concern plant components which require a long time and require special manufacturing facilities to make - parts of the reactor pressure vessel, steam turbine and generator.

Dominion has not committed to build the new reactor, but wants to maintain the option to do so to meet projected increased demand for electricity in Virginia in the next decade. The site already houses two pressurized water reactors (PWRs): unit one (924 MWe) which started up in 1978 and unit two (910 MWe) which began operating in 1980.

The company has partnered with General Electric-Hitachi and Bechtel on the new 1520 MWe project. The GE Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) is an advanced Generation III+ design that incorporates passive safety features. The North Anna site will be the reference site for demonstrating the ESBWR technology. GE-Hitachi is in the process of obtaining NRC certification for the reactor design, GE having submitted the ESBWR design application to the NRC in August 2005. Approval is expected by 2010.
Licence extension request

Meanwhile, Dominion has applied to the NRC for the operating licence for its single-unit Kewaunee nuclear power plant in Wisconsin to be renewed for a further 20 years.

The current licence for the 568 MWe reactor expires on 21 December 2013. Renewing the licence will enable the plant to operate until 21 December 2033.

Dominion's three other nuclear power plants have already received 20-year extensions to their operating licences. Its North Anna and Surry plants in Virginia received renewed licences in 2003, while the Millstone plant in Connecticut was awarded a renewed licence in 2005.