Entergy Nuclear on Friday temporarily suspended reviews of two new nuclear license applications specific to GE-Hitachi’s Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR), while Dominion said it will explore alternative nuclear power options for its proposed North Anna Unit 3 in Virginia.

Entergy said it had asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to suspend reviews for potential projects at its nuclear sites at Grand Gulf, near Port Gibson, Miss., and River Bend, near St. Francisville, La. The company, the second-largest nuclear power generator in the U.S., said it had made the decision after “unsuccessful attempts to come to mutually acceptable business terms with GEH.”

Meanwhile, Dominion said that it had not been able to enter into an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) agreement with GE-Hitachi, which would allow the company to move forward with the new unit at North Anna. The company said it would use a “competitive process to determine if vendors can provide an advanced reactor for [that station] that can be licensed and built under terms acceptable to the company.”

The news comes weeks after Exelon Corp. announced that it had dropped the ESBWR as its preferred technology for a proposed two-unit nuclear facility in Victoria County, Texas. Exelon then said that it reached its decision after an “internal analysis conducted [last] summer showed that technologies other than the ESBWR provide the project greater commercial and schedule certainty.”

CPL Energy also was unable to negotiate suitable terms with GE-Hitachi on its ESBWR purchase for a two-unit addition planned at South Texas. Instead, it went with the ABWR supplied by Toshiba.

Entergy Nuclear said on Friday it will continue to explore other new nuclear technologies as Entergy’s utility operating companies seek solutions for meeting the region’s growing energy demands. Though work has been suspended on the ESBWR, licensing work completed to date will be used for any alternative technology selected.

“The suspension of Entergy Nuclear’s applications referencing the ESBWR is not a criticism of that design. Rather, this action simply reflects the fact that we have not been able to come to mutually agreeable terms and conditions with GEH for the potential deployment of an ESBWR,” said Paul Hinnenkamp, vice president of Entergy Nuclear’s business development function. “We will continue to explore alternatives as we maintain our pursuit of a new nuclear option that is in our customers’ best interests.”

The New Orleans–based company applied to the NRC in February 2008 for Grand Gulf, and in September 2008 for River Bend, for a combined construction and operating license (COL) to build and operate an ESBWR at each site. It was one of four companies to specify the ESBWR as its preferred technology for proposed plants; the others were Dominion (North Anna, Unit 3), Detroit Edison (Fermi, Unit 3), and Exelon (Victoria County, Units 1 and 2).

Dominion filed an application with the NRC in November 2007 to build and operate an ESBWR at North Anna. “We believe we can license, build and begin operating a new nuclear unit at North Anna by 2017,” said David Christian, president and chief nuclear officer of Dominion Nuclear in a statement to POWERnews. “However, this date is dependent on achieving commercial and schedule certainty under contractual terms that are acceptable to the company.”

Dominion said its decision to conduct a competitive process will not affect the process of obtaining a COL using the ESBWR for North Anna. The company filed Part II of the loan guarantee application with the U.S Department of Energy in December and believes it is well positioned to receive a loan guarantee for North Anna Unit 3.

Exelon, the operator of the largest nuclear power fleet in the U.S., recently told POWER that it is now negotiating separately with Toshiba and GE-Hitachi, both vendors of the Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR), and with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for its U.S. Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor (US APWR).

Only two of five reactor designs submitted for consideration are currently certified by the NRC: GE-Hitachi’s ABWR and Westinghouse’s AP-1000 pressurized water reactor. Design approval for the ESBWR is expected this year, with certification following next year. The NRC only received Mitsubishi’s US-APWR design certification application in December 2007, and it expects to issue its final decision in September 2011. A certification application for the final reactor design, AREVA’s US-EPR, was also received by the NRC in late 2007.

Sources: Entergy, NRC, POWER, POWERnews