New Vogtle Units Inch Closer to NRC Approval of COLs

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) last week completed a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) for a limited work authorization (LWA) and the combined construction and operating licenses (COLs) for Southern Co.’s Vogtle Units 3 and 4 proposed for construction near Waynesboro, Ga.

The FSEIS means that the NRC found no environmental impacts that would preclude issuing the LWA or COLs for the reactors. It follows a draft SEIS issued for the LWA and COLs in September 2010 that supplemented its environmental findings from the Early Site Permit issued for the Vogtle site in August 2009.

The NRC still needs to compile its final safety evaluation report (SER), which will include recommendations from the NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, an independent group of nuclear safety experts. The NRC’s final licensing decision will be based on the FSEIS and SER findings, along with a ruling from the five-member commission that heads the agency.

Southern Co. submitted its new reactor application for Vogtle on March 23, 2008, and supplemented the application on Oct. 2, 2009. Southern is applying for licenses to build and operate two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at the Vogtle site, adjacent to the company’s existing reactors, approximately 26 miles southeast of Augusta, Ga. It has been awarded an $8.3 billion loan guarantee for its Vogtle units to help finance the two reactors. Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactors are awaiting design certification by the NRC.

NRC Chair Gregory Jaczko recently told Congress that the agency would not change its certification schedule because of the nuclear emergency in Japan. The decision could be voted upon by the five-member NRC commission as early as this fall. Southern Co. has also said it expects final NRC approval of the project. If approved, the new units could come online in 2016 and 2017.

The U.S. hasn’t built a new reactor since the March 28, 1979, partial core nuclear meltdown in Unit 2 at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania.

Sources: POWERnews, NRC

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