Exelon files with NRC, Luminant coming up soon
Texas is the heart of the nation's oil industry, but the amazing fact is in the Lone Star state new nuclear reactors are being planned at a pace which only a few years ago would have seemed like science fiction. There is an enormous amount of activity in Texas, and it continues to rival China in terms of planned commitments to nuclear energy. This work is taking place in addition to the work by NRG to add two new reactors at the South Texas Project.
- Exelon this week (Sept 3) submitted a Combined Construction and Operating License (COL) application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to build and operate a dual-unit GE-Hitachi nuclear power station in Victoria County, Texas.
- On September 19 Luminant will file a similar application to add two giant Mitsubishi reactors to its Comanche Peak site.
- However, Amarillo Power apparently has hit a pothole or two in the road to a COL and announced this week that it will delay its filing for two Areva EPRs with the NRC to 2009. It could be looking for some wind to fill its sails.
Exelon files for a greenfield plant
Exelon has chosen two GE-Hitachi new generation reactors, the "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor" ESBWR. The two units are expected to produce about 3,000 MWe. The ESBWR (vendor fact sheet), a GE-designed Gen III+ reactor, is currently in NRC's design certification process. The Design Control Document was docketed by the NRC in 2005. The agency has not published a date for completing the review.
The power station will be located on a greenfield site of 11,500 acres a dozen miles south of Victoria, Texas. It is about equally distant, as the transmission line runs, from San Antonio and Houston. Plant structures in the proposed design will occupy about 300 acres and a man-made lake for cooling water will take up 4,900 acres or nearly eight square miles.
The application for the COL, which was submitted in electronic form, is over 6,000 pages. According to Exelon, it took a year for a large team of engineers to complete. The NRC will complete its review in about four years or sometime in 2012.
Construction would start once the NRC license was in hand. Assuming it takes four-to-five years to bring the first unit into revenue service, and another one-to-two years to complete the second one, both units could be online in a time frame of 2017-2019. During construction peak employment will hit about 6,300 according to Exelon and the two plants will employ 800 permanent workers with average salaries of $65,000-80,000/year as measured in today's dollars. Actual wages will be higher because another decade will pass before the operations staff reports for work.
Effect of "Prudent Investor" laws
Under the Texas version of the uniform "prudent investor" law, Exelon won't make a statement committing to actually building the reactors until all the technical and financial issues line up in the right direction. It drives a lot of people crazy when they read what they think is corporate legalese for hedging one's bets, but in Texas, and in most other states, the decision to proceed with an investment of this size is governed by similar legislation.
The prudence standard for trust investing traces back to Harvard College v. Amory, (1830). Trustees should "observe how men of prudence, discretion and intelligence manage their own affairs, not in regard to speculation, but in regard to the permanent disposition of their funds, considering the probable income, as well as the probable safety of the capital to be invested."
So here is how Exelon states its "prudent investor" principles.
The application does not imply that Exelon has decided to build the plant. Among conditions that must be resolved before a final decision is made are public acceptance of the plant, NRC approval of the license application, assurances that a new nuclear plant can be financially successful based on market conditions, and that the government has made significant progress toward resolving questions around storage or recycling used nuclear fuel.
For more information see Exelon's new web site devoted specifically to the Victoria, Texas, nuclear plant.
Luminant plans two reactors at Comanche Peak
While Exelon is filing to build two new reactors at a greenfield site, Luminant Generation plans to apply Sept. 19 to build two reactors at its Comanche Peak nuclear power plant in Somervelle County, Texas. This action will will set in motion a nearly four-year review by the NRC. Luminant would be the third company to apply to build a nuclear reactor in Texas in the past year.
Tom Kleckner, a Luminant spokesman, told the Star-Telegram the NRC held a public hearing in June on Luminant’s expected filing. Dallas-based Luminant said at the time that it expected to add two reactors to Comanche Peak with combined output of 3,700 megawatts.
Comanche Peak currently produces about 2,300 megawatts of electricity from two reactors. The two new reactors are expected to be referenced in the application as Mitsubishi PWRs. This reactor is also in design certification. NRC has published a 2011 date for completing its review.
See prior coverage on this blog . . .
There will be more coverage on this blog once Luminant files with the NRC.
Amarillo pushes its game plan back a year
Things appear to not be going nearly so well in the Texas panhandle. There Amarillo developer George Chapman, and his partner Unistar Nuclear Energy, have notified the NRC they won't file a COL this year, but may do so next year. UniStar - a joint venture between Baltimore-based Constellation Energy and French nuclear power plant operator EDF - plans a fleet of 1,600 MWe Areva EPRs. Like the other two reactors, the Arevas EPR is also in NRC's design certification process. The agency has published a date of 2011 for completing its review.
Right now Chapman's chief worry is whether there is enough water to cool two 1,600 MWe plants. He told the Amarillo Globe News this week he has an engineering firm doing a study to find out.
According to the newspaper, water isn't the only issue that is affecting the plant's licensing schedule, but a spokesman for Unistar punted when asked for specifics. UniStar Senior Vice President Joe Turnage said no "big negative surprise" has caused the delay.
"I think it has just taken us a lot longer than we'd anticipated in structuring the project company (for the Amarillo plant) and moving forward. We just need to go forward with assuring ourselves as investors that we have adequate access to water, as well as ensure we have (transmission) access to those we want to sell the power to. In terms of greenfield development, we (UniStar) remain very interested."
The key issue appears to be how to get the electricity to market. Over at Atomic Insights blog, Rod Adams has an intriguing theory that Chapman is going to ride piggy back on the new transmission lines to Dallas-Ft.Worth connected to a series of giant wind farms to be built in West Texas by T. Boone Pickens, who also lives in Amarillo. Readers who have not unplugged their TVs in recent weeks will have seen Pickens' commercials about his $2 billion plan for wind energy. Here's where the connection between the two comes into sight.
- Who will buy the power? (The sparsely populated Texas Panhandle does not need 3,200 MW of electricity.)
- Where will you get the cooling water needed for large pressurized water reactors?
When Pickens completes an electric transmission corridor from his planned wind farms to population centers like Dallas-Ft. Worth, the lines will be able to provide a higher return on the investment by carrying reliable nuclear generated power as well as the intermittent power provided by the wind turbines.
It follows that Chapman and Pickens may be in a partnership with each other in terms of energy development. If so Chapman is surely waiting for the wind to blow in his direction in order to start the real work on his new nuclear power stations.
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