Sites Chosen for First U.S. Nuclear Plants in 30 Years

WASHINGTON, DC, September 23, 2005 (ENS) - The country’s largest consortium of nuclear power companies said Thursday it has selected two sites, in Alabama and in Mississippi, to build two nuclear reactors. If their applications for construction and operating licenses are approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, these will be the first new nuclear power plants built in the United States since the 1970s.

NuStart Energy Development LLC, a consortium of 11 companies that operate nuclear generating plants around the country, selected the two sites from a candidate list of six.

Bellefonte

The Bellefonte facility is located about six miles east-northeast of Scottsboro, Alabama, on the west shore of the Guntersville Reservoir in Jackson County. (Photo courtesy TVA)
One of the chosen sites is next to the partly finished Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in northeast Alabama, owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The federal power agency is a member of the NuStart consortium, which will apply to build and operate a Westinghouse Advanced Passive 1000 reactor adjacent to the mothballed plant.

The other site is adjacent to Entergy Nuclear's Grand Gulf reactor at Port Gibson, Mississippi where the consortium wants to build a General Electric Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor.

Marilyn Kray told reporters at the National Press Club and by teleconference Thursday that all six of the candidate sites were found to be suitable for nuclear reactors.

Kray, president of NuStart and a vice president at Exelon Generation, a NuStart member company, said that on its exploratory meetings with the communities near Bellefonte and Grand Gulf, Nustart was welcomed and endorsed by governors, unions, and council groups.

Kray

Marilyn Kray is president of NuStart and a vice president at Exelon Generation. Here she addresses a 2003 conference of women in the nuclear industry. (Photo courtesy WIN)
Dan Keuter, vice president of business development at Entergy Nuclear, announced that in addition to the company's participation in the consortium, Entergy would develop another construction and operating license application for one of the other candidate sites - its River Bend Nuclear Station in St. Francisville, Louisiana.

"We're bullish on nuclear power," said Keiter, "we take a common sense approach to it. The world needs more energy, and environmental regulations are only going to get stricter especially with regard to greenhouse gases. America needs energy independence," he said.

Kray said the consortium is prepared to spend $100 million to complete the two construction and operating license applications, $50 million each.

The U.S. Department of Energy is funding half the cost of the license applications because it is interested in testing the new license applications process at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In fact, the NuStart Energy consortium was formed to respond to a Department of Energy (DOE) issued solicitation to demonstrate the NRC’s COL process and complete the engineering for the two selected technologies.

It takes an estimated 33 months for a license to be approved, Kray said, then construction would take about 48 months. The consortium projects 2015 as the earliest possible date for the start of operations.

Grand Gulf

Entergy's Grand Gulf Nuclear Station is located at Port Gibson, Mississippi in Claiborne County. (Photo courtesy Public Citizen)
By then, Kray hopes, the challenging nuclear waste issue will be resolved. "Instead of dealing with this in a series," she said Thursday, "the waste issue is being actively addressed by the nuclear industry in cooperation with the DOE."

She said NuStart hopes that by doing this in parallel with the licensing process, by the time nuclear waste needs to be disposed, the stalled Yucca Mountain permanent geologic repository on the Nevada Nuclear Test Site north of Las Vegas will be operational.

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman expressed the Bush administration's support for nuclear power, saying Thursday, “Today's announcement is a major step in the right direction. As America’s energy needs continue to grow with our economy, further building our nuclear infrastructure will ensure that we can generate large amounts of reliable, affordable, emissions-free power."

But the environmental community objects to plugging in nuclear power as a solution to climate change. Responding to an industry campaign in June promoting new nuclear reactors as a solution to global warming, some 300 international, national, regional and local environmental, consumer, and safe energy groups reiterated their concerns and rejected the argument that nuclear power can solve global warming.

"Throwing a few billion dollars of taxpayer money at the nuclear industry might make some utility executives happy, but would do virtually nothing to reduce carbon emissions," said Michael Mariotte, executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service. "In fact, by diverting limited resources that should be used for sustainable technologies, subsidizing nuclear power would be counterproductive."

"This would exacerbate all of the problems of the technology: more terrorist targets, more cost - potentially trillions of dollars - less safety, need for a new Yucca Mountain-sized waste site every four or five years, more proliferation of nuclear materials and technologies, dozens of new uranium enrichment plants, and even then, a severe shortage of uranium even within this century - while displacing the resources needed to ensure a real solution to the climate change issue," the groups said in a joint statement.

They urged instead a focus on clean and renewable sources of energy, efficiency and conservation.