New US rules target faster design approvals; Wisconsin removes ban on nuclear build

Nuclear power news you need to know.

US’ NIA proposes new rules to speed advanced reactor licensing

The U.S. Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) has proposed new regulation to streamline the licensing of advanced reactors, the industry group said April 12.

The NIA’s recommendations would adapt existing requirements for light water reactors to address the features of advanced, non-light water reactor technologies. Advanced reactors use substantially different fuels, cooling systems, and safety and operating strategies to light water designs.

NIA has proposed a licensing feasibility process to standardize a review phase that would provide early feedback to applicants, it said.

"Our proposed process includes discrete stages for improved project risk management and, where appropriate, is based on real risks and potential outcomes, rather than prescriptive regulations that may not apply,” Ashley Finan, NIA policy director and lead author of the paper, said.

Wisconsin removes ban on new nuclear plants

Wisconsin has repealed a 33-year moratorium on nuclear plant construction following the signature of a new bill by the state's Governor, Scott Walker.

Wisconsin currently has two operational reactors at Point Beach, with a combined capacity of 1.2 GW. Nuclear energy provides around 15% of electricity in the state, far behind the 62% provided by coal-fired plants.

In addition to dropping the ban on nuclear plant construction, the new legislation also incorporates advanced nuclear energy options into state energy priorities.

The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) welcomed the state's decision.

“This law also formally amends state policy to list nuclear among a host of conservation, efficiency and non-emitting technologies for state and local decision-makers to consider in meeting new energy demand,” NEI said.

Republican state Rep. Kevin Petersen reportedly introduced the bill because the reason for the ban—the lack of a federal used fuel repository—is no longer relevant now that dry storage is in wide use at nuclear plant sites.

Georgia reviews Vogtle 3 & 4 costs, contractor settlement

Georgia Power has filed its latest spending plan for the Vogtle 3 & 4 plant project to the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC), the company said April 5.

The Vogtle 3 & 4 project will see two Westinghouse-designed AP1000 reactors installed on the Vogtle power plant site and the project is around 60% complete.

Included in the filing to the PSC is information to demonstrate that the latest settlement agreement signed with project contractors is in the "best interest" of electricity consumers, Georgia Power said.

The review and discussion of this detailed information by the Georgia PSC is one of the final steps necessary to confirm the prudent investment of approximately $3.1 billion by Georgia Power in the project.

In February, the PSC requested further information of a settlement deal made between the project developer and Westinghouse and CB&I, the contractor consortium for the project. The settlement agreement aimed to put an end to long-running litigation over delays to the project.

The Vogtle 3 & 4 reactors were originally scheduled to come online in 2016 and 2017, but delays have pushed back the expected start up dates to June 2019 (Unit 3) and June 2020 (Unit 4).

Georgia Power owns 45.7% of the project, while Oglethorpe Power Corporation holds a 30% share, Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia 22.7% and Dalton Utilities 1.6%.

US' Pilgrim plant to shut down in 2019

Entergy Corporation is to shut down its 680 MW Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth, Massachusetts on May 31, 2019, the operator said April 14.

Entergy had previously announced the closure would be at some point in 2017-2019, due to wholesale power market prices and higher costs.

The decision to continue operating for another three years means that the Pilgrim plant will undergo a refuelling outage in the spring of 2017.

The last refuelling outage in 2015 saw $70 million invested in the plant, including $25 million in new equipment. Nearly 2,000 workers, including 1,184 extra contract workers, performed hundreds of activities during the maintenance outage.

Entergy is to create a team of Pilgrim plant staff which will plan the decommissioning of the plant.

This team will develop a Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report describing planned decommissioning activities, a schedule, cost estimate, and environmental impacts.

This decommissioning report is due by 2021, according to the current schedule.