NRC Completes Major Licensing Milestone for Vogtle
A combined construction operating license for Southern’s twin AP1000s is expected by early 2012
A major licensing milestone has been met by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for Southern's Vogtle site. The NRC has has completed its Final Safety Evaluation Report (FSER) for the proposed Vogtle Units 3 and 4 reactors.
The action took place despite recent statements from NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko which many took to be obstructionist or even anti-nuclear in tone and intent. His recent comments in testimony to the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee were widely interpreted as linking future new licenses to a review of the Fukushima events last March.
The NRC, in its FSER, concluded that there are no safety aspects that would preclude issuing the license for construction and operation of the proposed reactor site, near Waynesboro, Ga. Southern plans to build two Westinghouse 1,100 MW AP1000 light water reactors on the site. Completion of the first unit is expected in 2016.
The next step in the licensing process is the mandatory hearing phase of the licensing process. In the mandatory hearing, expected to take place this fall, the Commission will determine whether the staff’s review has been adequate to support the findings necessary to issue a COL.
In addition, because the Vogtle COL application references the amended AP1000 design, the Commission must complete the certification process for that design before it can render a mandatory hearing decision on the COL.
AP1000 on home stretch
“We’re in the home stretch to receive final approval,” Westinghouse president Aris Candris said in the statement. “We’re happy that the NRC technical staff has approved the amended design.”
This is the second time the AP1000 PWR design has been through the design certification process.
The NRC officially granted design certification to the AP1000 in 2006. Since then, the AP1000 design has been modified to meet new and additional NRC requirements, including those that require it to withstand the impact of an aircraft crash on its shield building. The shield building protects the steel containment vessel that houses the reactor vessel.
Both the shield building and the containment vessel play significant roles in the passive safety systems of the AP1000 design, which allow it to safely shutdown with no, or minimal operator action and no AC power.
Other AP1000 projects planned
Westinghouse, part of the Toshiba Corporation group, said utilities in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida have chosen the AP1000 design in their combined construction and operating license (COL) applications to construct six AP1000 units.
Southern Company confirmed it received from the NRC a schedule for the completion of the licensing process for two new 1,100-megawatt AP1000 units at the plant, in the state of Georgia.
Southern Company said it expects commercial operation of Vogtle-3 to begin in 2016 and Vogtle-4 in 2017.
The company said the NRC’s schedule provides “clarity and certainty toward the historic issuance of a license for the first new nuclear units approved for construction in the US in more than 25 years”.
Upon receipt of the COL, full construction can begin at the site. Southern Nuclear has been working under a limited work authorization permit since 2009, which allows for certain safety-related construction activities.
Southern Nuclear is overseeing construction and will operate the two new 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.
Southern Nuclear operates Plant Vogtle’s two existing nuclear units as well as Georgia Power's two-unit Hatch nuclear plant in Georgia and Alabama Power's two-unit Farley nuclear facility in Alabama.
US new-build plans are realistic - NEI
Plans to add between four to eight new nuclear reactors in the US from 2016 to 2020 are still realistic, despite the accident at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, the US Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) has said.
NEI president and chief executive officer Marvin Fertel (right) told financial analysts on 26 July 2011 that the institute’s estimate for the past three years has been that, between 2016 and 2020, the US was going to add four to eight new reactors.
“We believe, pre-Fukushima, that was realistic. We believe, post-Fukushima, that is very realistic,” he said.
Fertel said he also expected to see more units built towards 2050 to replace power plants that retire and to meet growing electricity demand.
In a conference call with nuclear energy bloggers August 5, Tony Pietrangelo said the nuclear renaissance has two phases. The first is to run the existing fleet at 90% or better uptime. The second is to build new units on time and within budget.
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