WASHINGTON – Power producer NRG Energy Inc. is expected on Tuesday to submit the first application for a new nuclear reactor in the U.S. in nearly 30 years.
NRG’s application for two new units at its South Texas Project in Bay City will be the first complete construction and operating license submission the government has received since before the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Scott Burnell on Monday said the agency, based on conversations with the company, expects to receive NRG’s application Tuesday morning. He added that the government still expects to receive up to six more applications this year from Duke Energy Corp., Dominion Resources Inc. and others.
Utilities see in nuclear plants an opportunity to affordably meet demand for electricity, which the Energy Information Administration is forecasting will grow by 42 percent by 2030. High natural gas prices and the prospect of taxes or constraints on greenhouse gases are making gas- or coal-fired plants less attractive.
While NRG and other nuclear renaissance enthusiasts expect new reactors to come online by 2015, a March report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service predicted the process would take closer to 15 years to complete for several reasons, including the government’s new review, testing and approval procedures.
Representatives from NRG did not immediately return calls for comment Monday afternoon. The company last month said it selected reactor designs from Toshiba Corp. for the two units, which are expected to generate enough power for more than 2.1 million homes when operational in 2014 and 2015.
NRG, based in Princeton, N.J., filed its letter of intent to construct the two units in June 2006, and expects work on the first to start at the end of 2010.
On a side note, I was reading an interesting article in Time last night about the Arctic ice cap, which scientists now say will completely melt during the summer by 2040, and there’s nothing we can do today to stop it. The Time article primarily dealt with the new land grab going on up there, which ironically, has to do with global energy reserves believed to be located under the arctic sea bed. Go figure. If we hadn’t stopped developing nuclear reactors in the states back in the 70’s, maybe more of that ice cap would still be there?