This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

April 06, 2005

Nuclear Regulators Give Preliminary Approval to Illinois Site

Efforts to prepare to build the next generation of nuclear power plants in the United States made progress in early March, when the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced its preliminary conclusion that environmental impacts would not prevent it from issuing an Early Site Permit (ESP) for the Clinton site, about six miles east of Clinton, Illinois. The ESP process allows an applicant to address site-related issues, such as environmental impacts, for possible future construction and operation of a nuclear power plant at the site. Exelon Generation Company, LLC, filed the Clinton application; if approved, the permit would give Exelon up to 20 years to decide whether to build a new nuclear unit on the site and to file an application with the NRC for approval to begin construction. On April 19th, the NRC staff will hold a public meeting to obtain comments on its draft environmental impact statement. See the NRC press release and its Clinton ESP Web page.

The NRC also announced in early March that it was meeting with Duke Power to discuss Duke's possible application for a "combined license" to build a nuclear plant. When the nation's current 104 licensed reactors were built, an applicant had to first obtain a construction permit, and could only obtain an operating license once the plant was built and had passed all applicable tests. In 1989, the NRC amended its licensing regulations to allow a combined license, which authorizes both construction and conditional operation of a nuclear power plant. According to the NRC, the combined license process incorporates inspections, tests, analyses, and acceptance criteria into the construction phase, thereby demonstrating that the reactor could operate safely once construction is complete. See the NRC press release.