New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. on Thursday submitted a combined construction and operating license (COL) application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), selecting GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s next-generation ESBWR reactor design.
 
Entergy, the nation’s second-largest nuclear plant operator, is seeking to reserve the option to build a potential new reactor at its River Bend Nuclear Generating Station in Louisiana, located along the Mississippi River in St. Francisville, about 30 miles north of Baton Rouge.
 
Nuclear energy is gaining popularity. According to a recent public opinion survey by Zogby International, 67% of about 3,000 people in the U.S. polled said they support the construction of new nuclear power plants in the U.S. over a coal, natural gas, or oil plant. Nearly half indicated strong support for new nuclear plants.
 
Entergy’s application is the 15th received by the NRC in the potential new wave of nuclear plant construction. Earlier this month, Detroit Edison also submitted a license application for a potential new ESBWR reactor at its existing Fermi 2 Power Plant site, and Exelon Corp. submitted an NRC license application to potentially build and operate two ESBWR reactors near Victoria, Texas.
 
Entergy’s River Bend plant currently is powered by an earlier-generation, 980-MW boiling water reactor (BWR) unit designed by GE. With its COL application last week, it is among four U.S. utilities that have selected the ESBWR for a total of six potential reactor units.
 
The River Bend license application is Entergy’s second application to the NRC in 2008 for a potential ESBWR project. The NRC is reviewing a previous application filed in conjunction with the utility consortium NuStart Energy Development for its Grand Gulf Nuclear Station site in Port Gibson, Miss.
 
By submitting its license application before a federal deadline of Dec. 31, Entergy remains eligible for tax incentives and loan guarantees offered by the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005. The incentives were adopted to help jump-start the first group of new reactor orders in the United States since the 1970s.
 
Sources: GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, Zogby International