New Jersey’s largest utility, Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) on Tuesday filed an Early Site Permit (ESP) application with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a possible nuclear power plant adjacent to the company’s Salem and Hope Creek Generating Stations in that state.

The ESP would be valid for 20 years, and it could potentially be renewed for an additional 10 to 20 years. The company would need to submit and receive a combined construction and operating license (COL) approval from the NRC before operating a nuclear plant at the site, however. 

 “This is an important first step in the regulatory process to determine if a new plant is viable,” explained PSEG Power President Bill Levis. “Though it is not a commitment to build, it would determine that the location we have identified for a potential new plant is suitable from a safety, environmental and emergency planning standpoint.”

The application utilizes a “Plant Parameter Envelope” for the site, which acknowledges that a variety of possible plant designs could be accommodated at the proposed location. “This will allow PSEG to qualify the site for potential future development without selecting a specific reactor technology,” PSEG said in a statement.

The 4,000-plus page application took two and half years to develop, the utility said. Its safety review considers a number of site factors including seismology, hydrology, population distribution, and emergency preparedness. The environmental review evaluates the impacts of construction and operation of a nuclear power plant at the proposed site.

The NRC is expected to take three years to review the ESP application. To date the agency has issued four ESPs, with a fifth application that is currently under review. PSEG’s application would be the sixth considered by the regulatory commission.

Part of the NRC’s streamlined licensing process designed to reduce regulatory uncertainty, the ESP process resolves many site-related safety and environmental issues and determines if the site is suitable for possible future construction and operation of a nuclear power plant.

Last year the NRC issued an ESP to Southern Nuclear Operating Co. for its two proposed Plant Vogtle units in Waynesboro, Ga. Before Plant Vogtle, Exelon’s Clinton site, System Energy Resources’ Grand Gulf site, and Dominion’s North Anna site, had received permits. An ESP application for Exelon’s Victoria site is under consideration.

Sources: PSEG, NRC, POWERnews