New nuclear on old site in the USA

18 June 2009

A new energy project was launched today based around a new nuclear power reactor on the site of the former uranium enrichment plant at Piketon, Ohio.
The plant is being proposed by a group dubbed the Southern Ohio Clean Energy Park Alliance which consists of site owner USEC, the utility Duke Energy, Areva and UniStar Nuclear Energy.


American Centrifuge (USEC)
The American Centrifuge plant
might have a new neighbour
The group said it will "evaluate the Portsmouth site in Piketon, Ohio as the potential location for a new nuclear power plant, including preparing a plant siting study and licensing documents for the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)."


USEC explained the plan to World Nuclear News. Duke Energy would be the owner and operator of any potential new reactors, which would presumably be Areva's 1600 MWe EPR currently in the regulatory process under the NRC. UniStar would provide support including on licensing to Duke as the applicant, while USEC would be responsible under contract for site-specific matters like infrastructure support, utilities and environmental site data. USEC would also lease the land to Duke for the lifetime of the plant.


The proposed site is the location of the Portsmouth gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment plant, which operated from 1954 to 2001. The plant and its facilities were then kept in 'cold standby' until 2005, when they entered 'cold shutdown', and decontamination and decommissioning began. In 2004, US enrichment company USEC selected the Portsmouth site as the home of its American Centrifuge enrichment plant, currently under construction and due to begin commercial operations in 2010.


The site is enormous - some 1500 hectares - and only 20% is currently occupied by the old Portsmouth plant, the American Centrifuge and some contract work being carried out for the US Department of Energy. Although only a nuclear power plant is currently under consideration, it is possible that further power sources could be added in future while the presence of uranium operations on site justified the 'clean energy park' title.


Ohio has a long nuclear industry history. As well as half a century of uranium enrichment operations, the state is already home to two operating nuclear power plants at Davis Besse and Perry, both in the north of the state. Piketon, in the southern part of the state, has been described by commentators as economically depressed and an area where jobs are very much needed.


Ohio Governor Ted Strickland said: "The project will revitalize the region's economy, further advance Ohio's nuclear infrastructure, help address our energy needs and be part of Ohio’s solution to the challenge of climate change."


Duke Energy operates nuclear plants in North and South Carolina, and has applied to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a licence to build and operate a new two-unit nuclear plant at Lee in South Carolina. That plant, to be known as William States Lee III, would comprise two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors.