Permit Sought For New U.S. Reactors | October 1, 2007 Issue - Vol. 85 Issue 40 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 85 Issue 40 | p. 8 | News of The Week
Issue Date: October 1, 2007

Permit Sought For New U.S. Reactors

Construction application is first in 29 years
Department: Government & Policy
The proposed South Texas Project site for two new nuclear power plants.
The proposed South Texas Project site for two new nuclear power plants.

Two energy providers applied last week to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a "combined construction and operating license" for two new nuclear power plants with a combined output of 2,700 MW. The submission marks the first construction application for new nuclear plants in the U.S. in 29 years.

NRG Energy and South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Co. plan to build the reactors at their facility near Bay City, Texas, which already houses two similarly sized reactors.

"We have chosen an NRC-certified and an operationally proven technology," noted NRG President and CEO David W. Crane. "We expect to build these facilities on time and on budget."

The application is the first to use a new NRC process to speed up issuance of a construction and operating license. NRC has already approved the design and the site; the company expects to receive a license within 42 months, begin construction in 2010, and be operating by 2014. It expects the facilities to cost $6 billion.

NRG will be first in line to obtain a host of benefits available to early builders of new nuclear power plants, company officials note. The benefits include risk insurance for regulatory delays and legal challenges worth $500 million for the first two reactors and $250 million for the next four; a tax credit worth 1.8 cents per kWh, comparable with that provided to wind energy suppliers; and loan guarantees worth up to 80% of the total construction cost.

After a dismal recent construction history due to cost overruns and canceled construction projects, nuclear power is looking better because of growing electricity demand and its lack of carbon dioxide emissions.

Much uncertainty remains for nuclear power, however, particularly because of financing needs and the fate of nuclear waste. Still, the Nuclear Energy Institute says more than 30 nuclear power plants are being considered for the U.S.

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