Elizabeth Brackett wrote:
From today's Hartford Courant
New Nuclear Age
After A Long Moratorium, More Generators Are On Drawing Boards
November 15, 2001
By AL LARA, Courant Staff Writer
Nearly 23 years after the Three Mile Island disaster halted nuclear power
expansion in the United States, three companies may be poised to build new
Sometime early next year, Dominion Resources - owner of the Millstone Power
Station in Waterford - and two other companies are expected to begin the
permit process to build a new generation of reactors at existing nuclear
None are anticipated in Connecticut, and it would be years before a new
reactor would be built.
Dominion - which owns the Millstone Power Station in Waterford - says it
wants to build new reactors at one of its two Virginia plants.
New Orleans-based Entergy Corp., one of several companies bidding to buy
the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station in New Hampshire, said it is studying
possible new reactor sites at seven of its plants.
Chicago-based Exelon Corp. - owner of 17 nuclear plants, but none in New
England - has said it will announce plans for a new reactor early next
year, but has not said where.
The proposed plants are the result of a year of planning and decades of
refinement in plant operation, and are prompted by designs for cheaper,
simpler, and quicker-to-build reactors, said Ron Simard, chairman of the
Nuclear Energy Institute trade group's task force for new plants.
"A year ago, everything just crystallized, and the industry said it ought
to be doing something to get these plants to market," Simard said.
Simard said the three companies' plans are at different stages of
development. Formal applications may not be made to federal regulators
until later in 2002, and Dominion officials say their application may not
be made until early 2003.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's so-called early-siting process would
take a year, and construction of most plants would take three years. With
another year to test new designs, no reactor would be on line generating
power before 2007.
Existing nuclear plants are preferred sites because they already have
transmission lines in place, and they require less regulatory review.
The last nuclear reactor was ordered in this country in 1978. After the
March 1979 partial meltdown of a reactor core at Three Mile Island in
Pennsylvania, new plant orders stopped, and 35 power plants under
construction were canceled.
Despite the moratorium on new plants, new efficiencies and reliability in
some existing plants have led to 20-year extensions of their operating
licenses, making nuclear power more cost-effective and profitable for their
In 2000, a task force of nine nuclear power plant owners began meeting just
as an energy crisis in California, high energy prices nationwide and a
supportive new administration in the White House seemed to signal a thaw
for nuclear power.
Last spring, some analysts believed that the industry was only weeks away
from a new reactor application.
Since then, stable energy supplies, lower fuel prices and security concerns
after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks diminished the urgency for new
reactors. But those factors have not canceled the industry's plans.
"Really, nothing's changed," Simard said. "All the reasons for starting
this are still valid. The industry is looking years down the road. They
know energy prices are volatile. But they also know demand for electricity
will remain high."
Dominion, Exelon and Entergy have been participating in the U.S. Nuclear
Regulatory Commission's "early siting program," under which plant
developers that get regulatory approval for a new reactor can "bank" the
site for as long as 20 years without committing to its construction. That
allows companies to build reactors when they are more economically feasible.
Eugene S. Grecheck, a former vice president at Millstone and now Dominion's
senior vice president of nuclear support services, said the company is
studying new reactors at its North Anna and Surry power plants in Virginia.
Both facilities have two operating reactors, with room for two more.
At North Anna, where construction began on a third and fourth reactor, but
was canceled, a concrete slab remains for the company to pick up where it
Millstone, with two operating reactors and a third shut down, was actually
designed for as many as six reactors. "But there are no plans to build
there," Grecheck said.
Grecheck said the company will decide whether to go ahead with a new
reactor in Virginia after the study is finished in mid-December. But a
formal application is not likely before 2003, he said.
Entergy owns the Pilgrim power plant in Plymouth, Mass. It recently
completed its purchase of the Indian Point nuclear power station in
Buchanan, N.Y., near the Connecticut border, and it recently agreed to
purchase the Vermont Yankee power plant.
Entergy spokesman Carl Crawford said the Vermont plant is not among the
seven facilities being studied for a new reactor. Entergy officials have
said they would consider building a second reactor at the Seabrook power
plant in New Hampshire if the company acquires it at a coming auction.
Entergy President Don Hintz said his company wants to build one or two new
reactors in the next three to five years.
But he and other industry leaders say that timeline can be made shorter
with financial incentives from the government in the form of tax breaks or
other money to reduce the cost of new construction.
Similar inducements are expected to be added to pending legislation.
Exelon spokeswoman Mary Ann Carley confirmed that the company anticipated
starting the permitting process for a nuclear reactor next year, but she
said no sites had been selected.
The problem of mounting nuclear waste remains unresolved, although industry
officials disagree about how much of an obstacle it is to new plant
In August, a government study approved the use of Yucca Mountain, Nevada,
as a permanent underground repository for high-level radioactive waste that
is currently stockpiled, mostly at nuclear plants. The repository still
requires the approval of the president and licensing by federal regulators,
and would open no sooner than 2010.
Elizabeth M. Brackett, CHP
Sr. Health Physicist
MJW Corporation, Inc. (http://www.mjwcorp.com)
Phone: (860) 872-2137