Monday, March 14, 2005

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.

2 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.

Lisa Stiles-Shell said...

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.