Nuclear Power in the USA Appendix 3
(Updated November 2016)
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has made provision for companies to apply for combined construction and operating licences (COLs) for new nuclear power plants, with costs being shared by DOE (see page on US Nuclear Policy). COL applications for 26 new nuclear reactors at 17 sites had been submitted to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) by mid-2009. The NRC expects applications for further plants, involving small modular reactors, in 2018.
COL applications are lodged with a particular design and site nominated, though the design certification need not be complete. The NRC expects to take at least three years to review each COL application. In some cases COL applications have been replaced by early site permit (ESP) applications, with no particular technology specified.
Most of the COLs are for plants in regulated electricity markets, where state government and regulators allow utilities to adjust rates so that they can recoup financing costs of new plants over a longer period before the plants become operational. This lowers the overall cost of each new plant and, ultimately, the price of electricity to the consumer. Elsewhere, merchant plants are without regulated cost recovery and must bear all financing costs as part of the capital commitment, to be recovered after the plant becomes operational.
NuStart Energy Development
NuStart Energy Development was formed in 2004 to use the NRC's licensing process for obtaining a combined construction and operating licence for an advanced nuclear power plant, and to complete the design engineering for two reactor technologies. The consortium comprised ten major utilities brought together by Entergy and representing more than half of the US nuclear plants.a It also involved vendors Westinghouse and General Electric, and set out to pursue the Westinghouse AP1000 and GE's ESBWR technology options. NuStart was headed by an Exelon senior executive. In May 2005, it signed an agreement with the DOE to split the estimated $520 million cost of completing detailed engineering work on one of the two designs.
In September 2005, NuStart identified Entergy's Grand Gulf site for an ESBWR reactor and Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA's) Bellefonte site for two AP1000 reactors. Entergy submitted the application for Grand Gulf in February 2008 and, in September 2008, submitted a further application, also referencing the ESBWR design, for its River Bend site. However, early in 2009, Entergy announced it was reviewing its choice of reactor technology and asked the NRC to suspend its review of its COL applications until it had re-evaluated alternative technologies. The ESBWR projects are now suspended indefinitely. The COL application for the AP1000 units at Bellefonte was submitted by TVA in October 2007, but then deferred (see TVA-led consortium below). NuStart was wound up in mid-2012 after the first reactors were licensed at Vogtle.
The second consortium was led by Dominion and originally included Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL), Hitachi and Bechtel. It started to pursue AECL's ACR-700 option, developed from the successful CANDU-6 heavy-water design but with light water cooling. Hitachi and Bechtel had been key contributors to the successful completion of CANDU plants in China. However, in January 2005, AECL and Hitachi were replaced by General Electric and the ESBWR became the favoured technology. The reason given for this was NRC indication that certification of the ACR design would be very slow, whereas that of the US technology – developed from light water designs already approved – would be much quicker.
In April 2005, Dominion signed an agreement with the DOE to split the estimated $500 million cost of its COL work on the ESBWR. Then in 2007, GE and Hitachi formed the GE Hitachi partnership, bringing that Japanese expertise back into play. In October 2007, NuStart announced that it was working with Dominion on developing the ESBWR reference application for the North Anna plant and, in November 2007, a COL application for an ESBWR as unit 3 at North Anna was filed. About then, the NRC awarded an early site permit for North Anna (with no reactor type specified).
In 2009, Dominion Virginia Power said that it had been unable to negotiate a contract with GE Hitachi, so launched a competitive bidding process, as a result of which the Mitsubishi APWR was selected in May 2010 for North Anna. This required an amendment to the COL application and some delay in its processing. Then in in April 2013 Dominion announced that it had reverted to the ESBWR as preferred technology (as originally selected in 2005), and would amend its COL application accordingly. It is now expecting COL approval in 2017.
In addition to being a member of NuStart, TVA formed its own consortium consisting of TVA plus Bechtel, Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas and USEC, as well as vendors Toshiba and GE. The consortium carried out a $4 million feasibility study, half funded by the DoE, into constructing two GE ABWRs on the Bellefonte site and reported that it could be done economically.1 However, TVA rejected the proposal, apparently because it believed they would be the only ABWR units in the USA. The 1,350 MWe ABWR already had design certification in the USA and was the first Generation III reactor design to enter service (at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Japan).
While TVA went ahead with the COL application with NuStart for two AP1000 reactors at Bellefonte, the company was considering other options for the site. The site has two unfinished 1,213 MWe PWR units, unit 1 being about 55% complete, and unit 2 less so. In April 2006, TVA requested that the NRC terminate the construction permits of the two unfinished units, which it did in September of that year. But in August 2008, citing changing power-generating economics, TVA stated that completing the Bellefonte reactors might be viable and requested that the NRC reinstate the permits. In February 2009, the NRC authorized the reinstatement of the construction permits but denied TVA's request to reinstate the classification of the reactors as 'deferred'. Instead, the reactors were classified as 'terminated', meaning that TVA would first need to re-establish certain physical conditions and records quality of the units before the NRC would change the status back to 'deferred'.
In August 2011 TVA decided to proceed with completing Bellefonte unit 1 at a cost of about $4.9 billion rather than building a new AP1000 unit. It then asked the NRC to defer its review of the COL application, and in February 2016 it withdrew the application. However, it then reconsidered completing unit 1, and decided to sell the whole site with partly completed reactors.
UniStar Nuclear started in September 2005 as a joint venture between Areva (France) and Constellation Energy to develop a business framework for building at least four of Areva's US-EPR nuclear units in North America. Later, in July 2007, Constellation Energy and Electricite de France (EdF) formed a joint venture holding company, UniStar Nuclear Energy, focused on the potential deployment of a fleet of new nuclear power plants in North America. EdF paid $350 million cash upfront and pledged up to $625 million in total to UniStar Nuclear Energy, while Constellation Energy contributed the subsidiary companies and interests from its pre-existing UniStar Nuclear line of business. UniStar submitted the first part of a COL application for a US-EPR at the Calvert Cliffs site in July 2007 and the second part in March 2008.
After the DOE put unrealistic terms on a loan guarantee offer for Calvert Cliffs to Unistar3, Constellation agreed to sell its half share in Unistar to EDF for $140 million4. Some $817 million had been invested by both companies in Calvert Cliffs 3 to that point. Unistar would own the site for Calvert Cliffs 3 as well as a potential fourth reactor there, and other sites at the Nine Mile Point and RE Ginna nuclear power plants. While EDF through Unistar may pursue the construction of Calvert Cliffs 3, it would still need to find a US-based partner before the NRC could grant a COL. Under the US Atomic Energy Act, the NRC may not issue any commercial licences to an entity 'owned, controlled or dominated' by a foreign company or government. (As a result of the agreement between EDF and Constellation, the EDF share of Constellation Energy dropped to 6%, and it continued to own 49.99% of Constellation Energy Nuclear Group.) In August 2012 the NRC said it would terminate the Calvert Cliffs 3 COL application in 60 days unless Unistar became majority US-owned by then. In July 2015 UniStar withdrew its COL application for Calvert Cliffs 3 after concluding that a merchant plant would not be a profitable in a deregulated market such as Maryland. NRC said it agreed to this.
NRG Energy and Nuclear Innovation North America
In mid-2006, NRG Energy announced plans to build 8 GWe of baseload capacity across the US over the next decade, notably including two 1358 MWe ABWR nuclear units from Toshiba at its South Texas Project (STP) site, coming on line 2014-15. [NRG Energy (44%) and CPS Energy (40%) are the main shareholders in STP.] The new build project originally had NRG and CPS as 50:50 joint venturers, but after reappraisal by CPS it reduced its share to 7.625%, the balance being a new NRG partnership: NINA (see below). Some of this share may be sold to others, and Tepco had been mentioned as a likely partner.
The new STP expansion would be a merchant plant. In 2006 the project cost was estimated at $5.2 billion but, by June 2009, the price was quoted as $10 billion, or $13 billion with financing costs.b Japan's Tepco, the most experienced operator of ABWRs, agreed to assist NRG Energy and STP Nuclear Operating Co with these. NRG Energy aims to reduce dependence on natural gas and reduce the carbon intensity of its baseload fleet by 20-25%. This is the most conservative equipment choice among potential new nuclear build in USA, reflecting the fact that such ABWR units are well proven, four of them having been operating in Japan for up to ten years, and they are fully certified in the USA. Most of the rest of the baseload capacity is to be coal-fired. The company was the first to apply for a COL, in September 2007.
In March 2008, NRG formed a partnership with Toshiba to market the ABWR in North America. Toshiba America Nuclear Energy Corp (TANE) received a 12% stake in Nuclear Innovation North America LLC (NINA), in return for a $300 million investment over six years. Half of this investment is to support the proposed new ABWRs at South Texas Project (STP 3 and 4) through NINA Investments Holdings. The other half is for new ABWR projects in North America with other potential partners.
In August 2009, NRG Energy signed provisional agreements for long-term sale contracts (20 to 40 years) for more than half of the power from the new South Texas units, which will greatly assist financing them. In May 2010, NINA agreed with Tepco (which has been a technical consultant to the project since 2006) to take a 10% share in NINA for $155 million, subject a loan guarantee from the US government. The sum included an option enabling Tepco to take a further 10% for $125 million within 12 months. With the initial Tepco equity, STP 3&4 shares would be: Tepco 9.2375%, NRG Energy 73.1610%, Toshiba 9.9765% and CPS Energy 7.6250%.
However, in April 2011 NRG announced that it would pull out of the project, since the Fukushima accident "has introduced multiple uncertainties around new nuclear development in the United States which have had the effect of dramatically reducing the probability that STP 3 and 4 can be successfully developed in a timely fashion." NRG offered to help reconfigure the partnership but would write off $331 million of NINA assets funded by NRG plus $150 million contributed by Toshiba. In October 2011 Platts quoted NINA equity as 89.5% NRG and 10.5% Toshiba American Nuclear Energy Corp, which was then providing most of the STP development funds.
The COL review by the NRC was due to be completed late in 2011, and the units were expected on line in 2016 and 2017, but in late 2011 the NRC notified NINA that the corporation did not meet the foreign ownership requirements and would therefore be ineligible to receive a licence; however NINA subsequently filed revisions to its COL application and a "negation action plan" to address the issue. In April 2013 the NRC "determined that NINA and its wholly owned subsidiaries … continue to be under foreign ownership, control, or domination and do not meet the requirements … of the Atomic Energy Act or the requirements of (federal regulations)." NINA responded by saying it would continue “to move forward on the technical portion of the permit and other activities necessary to obtain the licence. This action by NRC is a step in the process necessary to reach a final resolution of the foreign ownership issue." The NRC decision was then reviewed by the NRC Atomic Safety Licensing Board (ASLB), which ruled in April 2014 that the 10% Toshiba equity was no problem. NRC's Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards in April 2015 also supported issuing the COLs and the NRC issued a final safety evaluation report in September 2015. In February 2016 the NRC announced that it had resolved to issue the COLs.
NINA has told NRC that a DOE loan guarantee would result in roughly two-thirds of the first-lien debt on the two-reactor project being provided by the US Federal Finance Bank. About one-third of the first-lien debt would come from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation owned by the Japanese government, or from commercial banks insured by Nippon Export and Investment Insurance.
Comanche Peak Nuclear Company
Another partnership was formed between Luminant (a subsidiary of Energy Future Holdings, formerly TXU) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) in February 2009. Luminant holds an 88% ownership share in Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Company and MHI a 12% share. The joint venture was set up to fund project development costs during the period preceding the issuance of the COL for two US-Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor (US-APWR) units at Comanche Peak (units 3 and 4). Luminant submitted the COL application in September 2008, but as design certification for the US-APWR reactors was delayed the COL was suspended. In May 2011 the NRC concluded that there were no environmental considerations that would hinder the project. Luminant's loan guarantee application was accepted by the DOE. Mitsubishi has withdrawn as a joint venture partner.
Duke Energy lodged a COL for two Westinghouse AP1000 units at William States Lee III, a new site near Charlotte in Cherokee County, South Carolina in December 2007. The environmental review for the NRC was completed in December 2013, showing no problems, and the safety evaluation review was due for completion late in 2015. Duke told the NRC in 2012 that it was revising its COL application to move the nuclear island of both Lee units by some 20 metres to make excavation and construction easier. Partly as a result of this, the NRC delayed its target date for completing the COL to late 2016.
Progress Energy (now Duke) applied for for four AP1000 units – two at its Shearon Harris site in North Carolina in February 2008, and two at its new site in Levy County, Florida in July 2008. Following revisions to the Levy COL application in April 2013, the COL safety evaluation was completed in September 2014 and the COL was approved in October 2016. This is now a Duke Energy Florida project. The Shearon Harris application was proceeding towards being granted at the end of 2014, but in May 2013 Duke Energy (which had taken over Progress) asked the NRC to suspend the COL review due to projected electricity demand being low for next 15 years
Other applications and plans
South Carolina Electricity & Gas applied for two AP1000 units also in South Carolina at its Virgil C. Summer nuclear site. The COL was issued by the NRC in March 2012 and construction started a year later. The units are expected to be completed in 2019 and 2020.
Southern Nuclear Operating Company applied for two AP1000 units at its Vogtle site in Georgia, and the COL was issued by the NRC in February 2012. Construction start was delayed a year due to issues with concrete, but the units are expected to be completed in 2019 and 2020.
Florida Power & Light applied in June 2009 for a COL for two AP1000 reactors at its Turkey Point site in Florida. The NRC safety review was scheduled to be completed late in 2013, and the NRC website early in 2016 showed final EIS target late in 2016, so COL completion likely in 2017.
Detroit Edison in September 2008 lodged an application for an ESBWR at its Fermi plant in Michigan, and this was awarded in May 2015, though no decision has been made to proceed with the project.
Exelon lodged an application in September 2008 for two ESBWR units at a new site in Victoria County, Texas as a merchant plant. However, in February 2009, the NRC review of this application was suspended and Exelon then said it had chosen the ABWR design, to be built by GE Hitachi6. Then, citing adverse economic conditions, Exelon withdrew its COL application and instead submitted an early site permit (ESP) application in March 2010.7 This in turn was withdrawn in August 2012, and all work on the project ceased.
For the US-EPR, in addition to UniStar's Calvert Cliffs application, the NRC received COL applications for three more US-EPRs: at AmerenUE's Callaway site in Missouri (application submitted July 2008 but suspended June 2009); at Constellation's Nine Mile Point site in New York (submitted September 2008 and then partly suspended); and at PPL's Bell Bend site, a new site adjacent to PPL's Susquehanna nuclear plant in Pennsylvania (submitted October 2008 and suspended in 2014).
In June 2009, Duke Energy, Areva, UniStar Nuclear Energy, USEC, and the Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative (SODI) announced the formation of the Southern Ohio Clean Energy Park Alliance, which would investigate the feasibility of building a 1600 MWe US EPR at the DOE's Portsmouth site in Piketon, Ohio8. The reactor would form part of a "clean energy park demonstration project" which replaces a lot of Duke's coal-fired plant in the state. It would be a regulated generator, not a merchant plant, enabling it to be funded from rates before it is finished, thus diminishing the overall cost. For licensing support the new plant would come under the UniStar arrangement. USEC (now Centrus) would handle site issues and would be involved in any early site permit application. In December 2010 Duke said it might lodge an ESP application after September 2013, but didn't.
Outside the mainstream utilities, Alternate Energy Holdings Inc (AEHI) proposed a US-EPR nuclear unit near the town of Hammett in Elmore County, in southwest Idaho. Unistar Nuclear initially agreed to assist AEHI with the approval and construction process for the reactor, but this agreement lapsed.
UniStar was also working with Amarillo Power towards submitting an application for two US-EPRs at an undisclosed site in near Amarillo, Texas. Amarillo Power (originally named Pleasant Valley Power) had planned to submit an early site permit application for two ESBWRs by the end of 2007. In March 2007, Amarillo Power decided to switch the proposed reactor design to the US-EPR and, in May 2008, UniStar told the NRC that a COL application for the Amarillo site had been delayed until late 2009. The project has apparently lapsed.
In October 2007, Transition Power Development (TPD) was established by EnergyPath Corporation to develop a nuclear plant in Utah. TPD intended to submit an early site permit application and/or a COL application for the Blue Castle Generation Project by April 2010. This now looks like an ESP application in 2016, at Green River. The business case appears to depend on electricity sales to California.
In May 2010 PSEG Nuclear submitted an ESP application for Salem 3, at Hope Creek, New Jersey. The ESP was issued in May 2016.
Proposals for SMRs
Babcock & Wilcox (B&W, now BWXT) has set up B&W Modular Nuclear Energy LLC to market the mPower small modular reactor design. The company intended to apply for design certification in 2013, and a combined construction and operating licence (COL) application for TVA's Clinch River site in 2012. Bechtel joined the project as a 10% equity partner to design, license and deploy it. In March 2016 BWXT and Bechtel reached agreement on “accelerated development” of the mPower project, so that Bechtel would attempt for a year to secure funding for SMR development from third parties, including the DOE. If Bechtel succeeds in this, then BWXT and Bechtel will negotiate and execute a new agreement, with Bechtel taking over management of the mPower program from BWXT. An ESP application for Clinch River was in May 2016, followed by a COL application expected in 2018.
Ameren Missouri which had been interested in building an EPR at Callaway in Missouri was then considering building five Westinghouse small modular reactors there, or possibly an AP1000. The COL application lodged in October 2008 was withdrawn in 2009 but may be revived as an SMR project in the light of impending constraints on coal-fired generation.
The UAMPS Carbon-Free Power Project, a 12-module Nuscale SMR plant, would be owned by Utah AMPS and operated by Energy Northwest in Idaho, supported by six western states. Nuscale plans a design certification application in 2016, and UAMPS plans to submit a COL application early in 2018. UAMPS expects to decide upon proceeding or not with the $3 billion project in fiscal 2017 (i.e. from April 2016). The DOE has granted permission to site the plant on the 2300 square kilometre Idaho National Laboratory estate. Under this agreement UAMPS has ten years to begin operating the first module, and this will trigger a 99-year lease for the plant.
Related information pages
Nuclear Power in the USA
a. The NuStart consortium was formed in March 2004 by five utilities and two vendors: Constellation Generation Group, a subsidiary of Constellation Energy; EDF International North America, a subsidiary of EDF; Entergy Nuclear; Exelon Generation; Southern Company; Westinghouse Electric Co; and GE Energy. Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Florida Power & Light Company, Duke Energy and Progress Energy joined soon after, followed by South Carolina Electric & Gas, a subsidiary of SCANA Corporation, about two years later. Late in 2007 Constellation Energy left it to pursue its Unistar plans with EDF, and DTE subsidiary Detroit Edison replaced it. NuStart was wound up in mid 2012 after the first reactors were licensed at Vogtle. [Back]
b. Cost estimates for the two proposed ABWRs at South Texas Project have increased. A January 2007 fact sheet published by NRG, titled South Texas Project Unit 3&4 Expansion - Powering Texas with NRG, says the units would "cost more than $6 billion." And in June 2009, following three years of detailed study of various energy options, CPS Energy (a 50:50 partner with NRG in South Texas Project 3 and 4) said the total estimated cost of the two units was $10 billion, or $13 billion with financing. CPS Energy recommended pursuing the project, but added that it was exploring ownership options that would trim the company's share to $5.2 billion with financing.5 [Back]
1. New Nuclear Power Plant Licensing Demonstration Project: ABWR Cost/Schedule/COL Project at TVA's Bellefonte Site, Tennessee Valley Authority (August 2005) [Back]
2. TVA to Update Environmental Impacts Evaluation for Nuclear Unit at Bellefonte Site, TVA news release (7 August 2009) [Back]
3. Constellation Energy Releases Statement Regarding U.S. Department of Energy Loan Guarantee, Constellation Energy press release (9 October 2010) [Back]
4. EDF and Constellation Energy Announce Comprehensive Agreement, Constellation Energy press release (26 October 2010) [Back]
5. CPS Energy sees need for new STP units, World Nuclear News (30 June 2009) [Back
6. Exelon opts for resurgent ABWR, World Nuclear News (26 March 2009) [Back]
7. Victoria nuclear build put back, World Nuclear News (1 July 2009) [Back]
8. Leading Energy Companies Form Alliance to Develop First U.S. Clean Energy Park Project in Ohio, Areva press release (18 June 2009) [Back]