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
 reactors.

 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
 plants.

 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
 operators.

 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
 left off.

 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
 construction.

 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
 mailto:brackett@alumni.umass.edu
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