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NuStart Energy Development

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's focus on the fallout of nuclear "spin."

NuStart Energy Development LLC, is a limited liability company formed in 2004 with nine member companies. These members, plus the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and two reactor vendors form the NuStart Consortium. The consortium's objective is to test out the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) new combined Construction and Operating License (COL) process, which would authorise construction and conditional operation for new nuclear power plant; and to complete the design engineering for the two selected reactor technologies. [1]

Critical to Nuclear Renaissance

Obtaining a COL is described as “a critical step in a potential renaissance of the nuclear power industry in the US”. By achieving this, NuStart will demonstrate that the COL license can be obtained on schedule and within budget, and that new plant designs can be approved.

NuStart will work with the reactor vendors to complete the one-time engineering work necessary for the standardized plant designs. This will position these technologies for deployment when needed, thereby significantly reducing the time to market for a new nuclear plant.

Nuclear Subsidies Continue

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has made up to US$450 million in grants available to test out the new licensing process. NuStart is one of two main organizations which emerged to take advantage of these subsidies. [2] In May 2005 NuStart signed a final deal with DOE for a 50% cost-share agreement, with taxpayers contributing $260 million and the consortium as a whole putting up an equal amount for the paperwork on two new nuclear reactors. [3]

Its nine member companies are: Constellation Energy, Duke Energy, EDF International North America Inc. (See EDF Group), Entergy, Exelon, Florida Power & Light, Progress Energy, SCANA Corporation, and Southern Company. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), is participating through providing staff time not cash. The reactor vendors Westinghouse and GE Energy are also members but have no voting rights.

Two Reactors for Deep South

Nustart plans to make two applications—one to build a GE Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) [4] at Entergy’s Grand Gulf in Mississippi and one to build a Westinghouse Advanced Pressurised Water Reactor (AP-1000) at TVA’s Bellefonte site in Alabama. [5]

The other main group is led by the utility Dominion. Dominion was seeking a COL for an advanced version of Atomic Energy of Canada’s CANDU design—the ACR-700—at North Anna (Virginia) where Dominion already operates two power reactors. However, in January 2005, it announced that it was replacing the ACR-700 with GE’s ESBWR mainly because of the expected time for a Candu plant to be licensed in the United States.

New Reactors will take time

The licensing process which NuStart has begun is expected to take until 2011. Engineering work needed to support the preparation of two COL applications has begun but is not expected to be completed until 2008. Until then, the COL applications can not be submitted. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) would then begin reviewing the applications. This would take until 2011, which is the projected date for issuance of the COL.

Although there are currently no commitments to build a new nuclear plant, construction would be permitted following NRC issuance of a COL. So 2015 is the earliest projected date for commencement of operations at the first new nuclear plant licensed in the U.S. in over 20 years.

To complicate the picture in the US, some of the NuStart Consortium members have announced their intention to submit COL applications on their own. [6] Altogether twelve companies or groups of companies are developing applications for a COL and intend to file applications with the NRC in the next few years. These applications could encompass as many as 23 new nuclear reactors. [7]

References

  1. ^  NuStart website, accessed December 2006
  2. ^  Steve Thomas, The Economics of Nuclear Power, Nuclear Issues Paper No.5, Heinrich Boll Foundation & WISE 2005.
  3. ^  Public Citizen website, accessed December 2006 NuStart Energy development, undated.
  4. ^  GE Energy ESBWR Factsheet, 2006.
  5. ^  Nuclear Energy Institute NuStart Selects Sites in Deep South, Insight, October, 2005.
  6. ^  Paul Gunter, New Nuclear Reactor Sites Currently Under Consideration in the United States Nuclear Information and Resources Service, October 28, 2005.
  7. ^  For a full list see the table on page 15 of Nuclear Energy Institute, Status and Outlook for Nuclear Energy in the United States, August 2006.