New COL filed; other US applications progressing

28 February 2008

Entergy and NuStart have submitted a combined construction and operating licence (COL) application for a potential new nuclear unit at the Grand Gulf site in Mississippi. Meanwhile, a COL application from Duke Energy has moved on to the next stage of regulatory review, as has Areva's application for design certification for its US Evolutionary Power Reactor (USEPR).

Entergy and NuStart's application to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is for a GE Hitachi Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR), similar to the design referenced in the North Anna COL application submitted by Dominion in November 2007. The Grand Gulf site is already home to a single boiling water reactor (BWR) that generates about one-fifth of the state of Mississippi's electricity output, according to Entergy.

Like many other companies applying for COLs, Entergy points out that it has not as yet made a decision to build a nuclear reactor, but that the COL allows it to preserve the nuclear option for the future. "The licensing and construction process for a nuclear reactor will take several years to complete, so strategically securing a licence now will better position Entergy to build, should conditions prove favourable," according to Paul Hinnenkamp, Entergy's vice president of nuclear business development, adding that a licence, once received, would itself be a "tangible resource" that could be used later. The site received an Early Site Permit (ESP) from the NRC in March 2007, confirming in principle its suitability for the possible future construction and operation of a new nuclear power plant.

Entergy is partnered in the COL submission by the NuStart consortium of power companies and reactor vendors created in 2004 for the dual purposes of testing the system for COLs offered by the NRC and completing the design engineering for likely reactor technologies. It has already submitted a COL application with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) for two Westinghouse AP1000 pressurized water reactors at the Bellefonte site in Alabama. Meanwhile, Entergy is also planning to submit a COL application for the River Bend site in Louisiana later this year.

Lee COL accepted

As Entergy announced their COL application Duke Energy announced that its application for a COL for the William States Lee III nuclear power plant in South Carolina has been approved by the NRC and docketed for the next stage of review. Duke submitted the 8000-page application for two Westinghouse AP1000 units in December 2007, using generic portions of TVA and NuStart's Bellefonte COL application which has become the reference application for the Westinghouse AP1000. The formal acceptance means that the Lee COL will enter the NRC's detailed review process.

As well as Lee, Bellefonte and North Anna, the NRC is currently reviewing a COL application for the South Texas Project (STP) site in Texas and a partial application for the Calvert Cliffs site in Maryland, and the agency expects a further 15 applications in 2008.

USEPR design

The NRC has also formally accepted for review Areva's application for design certification for its US Evolutionary Power Reactor (USEPR), filed in December 2007. Certification would mean that the design's safety is approved independently, and any company applying for a licence to build and operate a new nuclear power plant in the USA could choose to use the design and reference it in the application without any risk of the safety issues resolved within the scope of the design certification being subject to litigation.

The first EPRs are currently under construction at Olkiluoto in Finland and at Flamanville in France. NRC has already certified four other standard reactor designs: General Electric (GE) Nuclear Energy's Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR); Westinghouse's System 80+; Westinghouse's AP600; and Westinghouse's AP1000. It is currently reviewing the ESBWR design and an amended version of the AP1000, and has also received an application for design certification for Mitsubishi's US Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor (US-APWR).