Skip to main content

NRC Moves Forward on Exelon ESP Application

Last week, the NRC announced its preliminary conclusion that they have found no environmental impacts that would prevent approval of Exelon’s Early Site Permit (ESP) application for the Clinton plant in Illinois. This article appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week.

The article highlights an important point:
Besides environmental effects, the commission also is considering site safety and emergency planning. The commission has said it wants to make a decision on Exelon's application by August next year.
The myriad of other issues associated with licensing a new nuclear plant are addressed during other steps of the process like the certification of plant design and the application for a combined construction and operating license.

This is a concept that, in my experience, many antinuclear extremists can’t seem to grasp. They will allege that an ESP application is incomplete because it doesn’t say enough about specific safety features of the plant design or it doesn’t address storage or disposal of spent fuel.

Occasionally, when this feature of the licensing process is pointed out, a better-versed antinuclear leader will say, “Yes, and that is a fundamental flaw in the regulations. All of these issues should be addressed together.” I find this logic ludicrous. How does one provide sufficiently detailed analyses of safety systems when a design hasn’t been chosen? And how can one provide specifics of spent fuel storage and disposal when the parameters of the fuel are not yet known? Any such analyses at the ESP stage would be speculative at best and would not serve well the interests of the NRC, the utility, or the public.

Comments

Norris McDonald said…
Great new about Exelon. Now if they could get new plant on line in seven years I would really be impressed. Does Exelon really understand how important speed is here? And this assumes that they have excellent quality control.
I think that all the utilities that are pursuing ESPs are aware of the importance of showing investors that plants can be built on schedule.

I'm not in a position to know exact timeframes but the information I've gleaned at conferences and the like is that utilities and vendors would want to be sure they can have a new plant on line 4 years from the time the order is placed.

Of course, orders won't be placed until and if licensing and economic issues are resolved favorably. Given the length of time for the different steps in the licensing process, I doubt seriously that we will see a new nuclear plant online by the 2010 DOE target. But if everything comes together, I don't think it is unrealistic to expect a new one before 2015.

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why Nuclear Plant Closures Are a Crisis for Small Town USA

Nuclear plants occupy an unusual spot in the towns where they operate: integral but so much in the background that they may seem almost invisible. But when they close, it can be like the earth shifting underfoot.

Lohud.com, the Gannett newspaper that covers the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, took a look around at the experience of towns where reactors have closed, because the Indian Point reactors in Buchanan are scheduled to be shut down under an agreement with Gov. Mario Cuomo.


From sea to shining sea, it was dismal. It wasn’t just the plant employees who were hurt. The losses of hundreds of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in payrolls and millions in property taxes depressed whole towns and surrounding areas. For example:

Vernon, Vermont, home to Vermont Yankee for more than 40 years, had to cut its municipal budget in half. The town closed its police department and let the county take over; the youth sports teams lost their volunteer coaches, and Vernon Elementary School lost th…