Thursday, February 09, 2012

NRC Approves Two SNC Licenses For Reactors Near Augusta, GA

Feb 9: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced it has concluded its mandatory hearing on Southern Nuclear Operating Company's (SNC) application for two Combined Licenses (COL) at the Vogtle site in Georgia. In a 4-1 vote, the Commission found the staff's review adequate to make the necessary regulatory safety and environmental findings, clearing the way for the NRC's Office of New Reactors to issue the COLs. The Commission imposed a condition on the COLs requiring inspection and testing of squib valves, important components of the new reactors' passive cooling system.
    The NRC staff is expected to issue the COLs within 10 business days. The COLs will authorize SNC to build and operate two AP1000 reactors at the Vogtle site, adjacent to the company's existing reactors approximately 26 miles southeast of Augusta, GA. NRC construction inspectors have been on-site since April 2010, examining SNC's activities to prepare the plant's foundation under a Limited Work Authorization the NRC issued on August 26, 2009. On December 22, 2011, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) voted to approve a rule certifying an amended version of Westinghouse's AP1000 reactor design for use in the United States [See WIMS 1/4/12].
    SNC submitted its COL application on March 28, 2008, and supplemented the application on October 2, 2009. The NRC's Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) independently reviewed aspects of the application that concern safety, as well as a draft of the staff's Final Safety Evaluation Report (FSER). The ACRS provided the results of its review to the Commission in a report dated January 24, 2011. The NRC completed its environmental review and issued a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Vogtle COLs on March 24, 2011. The NRC completed and issued the FSER on August 9, 2011.
    The NRC certified Westinghouse's amended AP1000 design on December 30, 2011. The AP1000 is a 1,100 megawatt electric pressurized-water reactor that includes passive safety features that would cool down the reactor after an accident without the need for electricity or human intervention.
    A release from Southern Company indicates construction is set to begin on the nation's first two new nuclear units in 30 years. Southern Company Chairman, President and CEO Thomas Fanning said, "This is a monumental accomplishment for Southern Company, Georgia Power, our partners and the nuclear industry. We are committed to bringing these units online to deliver clean, safe and reliable energy to our customers. The project is on track, and our targets related to cost and schedule are achievable." The company expects to deliver to customers more than $1 billion in benefits from the Department of Energy loan guarantees, production tax credits and recovering financing costs during construction. The company said Georgia Power expects Unit 3 to begin operating in 2016 and Unit 4 in 2017.
    Georgia Power President and CEO Paul Bowers said, "The new Vogtle units will provide our customers and the communities we serve with clean, affordable, reliable energy. Our communities and our country will benefit from this more than $14 billion investment, representing 4,000 to 5,000 jobs on site during peak construction, and in the process creating over 25,000 direct and indirect jobs by this project alone." Southern Nuclear, a subsidiary of Southern Company, is overseeing construction and will operate the two new 1,100-megawatt AP1000 units for Georgia Power and co-owners Oglethorpe Power Corporation, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and Dalton Utilities. Georgia Power owns 45.7 percent of the new units, with a certified cost of $6.1 billion.
    Marvin Fertel, president and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) issued a statement saying in part, "This is a historic day. Today's licensing action sounds a clarion call to the world that the United States recognizes the importance of expanding nuclear energy as a key component of a low-carbon energy future that is central to job creation, diversity of electricity supply and energy security. The Nuclear Energy Institute congratulates Southern Company, the Shaw Group, Westinghouse Electric and other project participants on this exciting achievement. The United States is building new nuclear energy facilities under an improved licensing process that exhaustively addresses safety considerations. It also assures that the lessons learned from the industry's licensing and construction experience are properly applied to future projects. Ultimately, this also will benefit consumers who depend on reliable, affordable electricity from those facilities. . .
    "The two new reactors will power more than 1 million homes and businesses in Georgia. Westinghouse's new standardized design takes reactor safety to the highest level in U.S. history and is a huge stride forward for the nuclear energy industry and the nation. Thousands of jobs, direct and indirect, will be created from the largest construction project in Georgia history, and the electricity produced will help sustain economic growth in the region for 60 years." 
    Access a release from NRC (click here). Access a release from Southern Company (click here). Access a release from NEI (click here). Access more information about the amended AP1000 design review (click here). [#Energy/Nuclear]
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