NRC gives planned Vogtle units environmental OK

08 September 2010

There are no major environmental reasons why two new reactors should not be constructed at the existing Vogtle nuclear power plant site in Georgia, the US nuclear regulator has said in a preliminary finding. 


Vogtle - new reactors
How Vogtle 3 and 4 are expected to look (Image: Southern)
Southern Nuclear submitted a combined construction and operating licence (COL) application for the new Vogtle units to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in March 2008 and the company supplemented this in October 2009. Southern is applying for licences to build and operate two Westinghouse AP1000 units at Vogtle.


The Vogtle COL application incorporates information from both the Site Safety Analysis Report conducted for its Early Site Permit (ESP) application and from Southern's environmental report. For a COL application referencing an ESP, the NRC is required to prepare a supplement to the ESP Environmental Impact Statement.


In its draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) released on 7 September, the NRC said that it had found no environmental reason why federal regulators should not allow a COL to be issued for the project.


In its SEIS, the NRC said that during its COL review "no new and significant information was identified that would change any of the conclusions stated in the ESP EIS."


The NRC’s evaluation of the safety and security aspects of the construction of the new Vogtle units will be addressed in its Safety Evaluation report.


The NRC is now seeking public comment on the preliminary finding. A public meeting will be held in Waynesboro, Georgia on 7 October to discuss the NRC's draft SEIS. The deadline for public comments is 24 November. The NRC expects to issue its final SEIS in January 2011 and a COL could be issued later that year.


Preliminary site work has already started for the two AP1000 units at Vogtle, slated to begin operation in 2016 and 2017, subject to regulatory processes already underway. The NRC granted an Early Site Permit (ESP) as well as permission for limited safety-related construction at Vogtle in August 2009. However, actual construction of the new plant cannot begin until Southern receives a COL from the NRC.


In February of this year, Vogtle units 3 and 4 became the first new nuclear power plant construction projects to be offered conditional loan guarantees by the US Department of Energy (DoE).


Recovering costs 


FPL recovers expansion costs
Meanwhile, the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved Florida Power and Light’s (FPL’s) cost recovery plan for its proposed nuclear plant expansion projects.
The PSC has allowed FPL to recover some $31 million in 2011 to cover the costs of planning the uprate of four of its existing reactors - Turkey Point units 3 and 4, and St Lucie units 1 and 2 - and the construction of its proposed Turkey Point units 6 and 7. These completed uprate projects will add 2614 MWe of new nuclear base load generation.
As from January 2011, the bill of a FPL customer using 1000 kilowatt-hours of electricity will increase by 33 cents per month. This is half the additional amount that customers have been paying in 2010 to cover these costs.
The Florida PSC is required to conduct a hearing every year to review the nuclear project costs for the state’s invest-owned utilities.

Southern subsidiary Georgia Power, which has a 45.7% interest in the new units at Vogtle, has filed an early cost recovery plan with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) for the new reactors. Both the PSC and the Georgia General Assembly approved early cost recovery for the project in 2009.


According to a report in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Georgia Power officials said that the utility's ability to begin recovering its investment in the new Vogtle units in 2011 - five years before the first of the reactors is due to begin operating - will spread out costs, ultimately saving ratepayers $300 million.


Starting in January 2011, Georgia Power's customers will pay an average of $3.73 per month on their bills to cover the cost of constructing the Vogtle reactors. The increases will then be $1.44 per month in 2012, $1.50 in 2013, $1.22 in 2014 and just 82 cents per month in 2015.


Georgia Power spokesman Jeff Wilson said that the costs in 2011 will be the highest as the payment covers costs incurred since preliminary groundwork started at the Vogtle site in 2009.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News