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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Standardized nuclear plant design eluding utility firms

The nuclear plant design favored for new plants by Progress Energy, Duke Energy and three other utilities is the subject of multiple design changes that energy industry watchdogs say undermine the concept of a pre-certified design and could delay the construction of new reactors while adding billions to the cost.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission certified the plant design of Westinghouse Electric Co.’s AP1000 at the end of 2005. Pre-certification was intended to help streamline an approvals process that takes years before plant construction even begins.

Along with Duke and Progress, the Tennessee Valley Authority, South Carolina Electric & Gas and the Southern Co. of Atlanta have applied to the NRC for licenses to build AP1000 plants. According to a Feb. 15 NRC letter that sets an application review schedule for the design of the AP1000, March 2010 is the target date for completing the review process for the plant’s design.

Westinghouse spokesman Vaughn Gilbert acknowledges that design changes have been made, but he says the changes are minor and represent less than 10 percent of the overall design. He says Westinghouse is responding to new NRC requirements, such as demonstration of safety in the event of an airplane crash. He says the utilities have not requested the changes under consideration.

(Source: Triangle Business Journal)

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