On Wednesday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a hearing on the combined construction and operating license (COL) for DTE Energy’s proposed Fermi 3 reactor.
This is notable for at least two reasons. It is the first license application that uses GE Hitachi’s ESBWR reactor design as its basis(the ones under construction at Vogtle and Summer are Westinghouse AP1000s.). This design was itself approved last September. And since there was a patiently waiting queue of COL applicants using this same design, it is now moving. ESBWR stands for Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor.
Assuming all goes well on Wednesday, does this guarantee a new reactor in Michigan? Well, guarantee might be a bit strong. To be judicious, let’s say for now that it opens the door to a new reactor – or should we say reactors.
DTE Energy will be followed in the queue by Dominion (for Virginia’s North Anna), NextEra (Florida’s Turkey Point) and South Texas Project. Any or all of these companies may decide the time is right to build a reactor or prefer to wait until electricity demand increases – or the markets more correctly value nuclear energy for its emission-free qualities – or any number of issues that could impact their businesses. We’ll have to keep up with the press releases to see who’s building what when.
Above, I gave two reasons why this hearing is notable. There’s a third, too. The other day, I read an anti-nuclear screed that said after the five reactors currently under construction go on-line, the nuclear energy industry will go into an inevitable death spiral. I may have snorted outwardly, but I certainly did inwardly. Because this NRC meeting was about to happen. And, besides, it’s just silly. Add the upcoming rush of NRC hearings to the interest in small reactors and you’ve got an exceptionally vibrant nuclear industry. So – piffle.
Here’s a bit from the NRC’s press release on the meeting:
DTE Electric Company is applying for permission to build and operate an Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) at the Fermi site, adjacent to the company’s existing reactor. The company submitted its Fermi COL application on Sept. 18, 2008. The NRC certified the 1,600 - megawatt ESBWR design following a Commission vote in September 2014. More information on the ESBWR certification process is available on the NRC website.
The NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) independently reviewed aspects of the application that concern safety, as well as the staff’s final safety evaluation report (FSER).
The committee provided the results of its review to the Commission on Sept. 22, 2014. The NRC completed its environmental review and issued the final impact statement for the proposed Fermi reactor in January 2013.
The NRC completed and issued the FSER on Nov. 19, 2014.
If you want to watch the hearing, you can. It starts at 8:30 est at NRC headquarters and you can get information about the webcast here. Brew a pot – no, make that two pots – of coffee. It will end at 5:00.