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Last updated 8:33AM ET
February 28, 2021
TVA Files Application To Build Two New Reactors
(APR - Alabama Public Radio ) - The Tennessee Valley Authority filed an application Tuesday for a license to build and operate two new nuclear power reactors at a site in northern Alabama where it mothballed two reactor projects nearly two decades ago after investing billions of dollars.

The filing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, made in conjunction with an industrial consortium called NuStart, was the second application for a new commercial reactor in just over a month and is expected to usher in more applications.

Bill McCollum, TVA's chief operating officer, said it would be up to the TVA Board to decide whether to proceed with construction, but applying for a license as part of the NuStart consortium "is a cost effective way to preserve TVA's nuclear power option."

The application is the first to the NRC for construction of a Westinghouse AP1000 reactor, which would be built at TVA's Bellefonte site near Hollywood, Ala., where it halted construction on a pair of reactors in 1988 as the tide turned against nuclear power.

But the industry has been in a renaissance in recent years.

The application is the first made under the umbrella of the NuStart consortium, a group of electric power utilities that joined together to test the NRC's new, more streamlined reactor licensing program. The federal government paid for part of the licensing application costs under an Energy Department program to promote construction of new nuclear power plants.

Deputy Energy Secretary Clay Sell, joining TVA and NuStart officials at a news conference, said the TVA application is expected to establish the regulatory groundwork for future Westinghouse AP1000 applications.

The application is "a monumental step toward the rebirth of nuclear power in the United States," said Sell.

The TVA, the nation's largest public power provider, operates six nuclear power reactors in Tennessee and Alabama.

It restarted its Browns Ferry Unit 1 reactor in Alabama last summer after a lengthy shutdown. In 1996 it began operating Unit 1 at Watts Bar in Tennessee, the last new nuclear reactor to come on line in the United States, although its license application predates the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania.

McCollum said any TVA decision on whether to build a new twin-reactor power plant at Bellefonte will come later. Other utilities, as well as TVA, will be watching the NRC closely to see if its new streamlined licensing process __ which allows one-stop shopping for both construction and operation permits will work.

If all goes as anticipated, TVA is widely expected to proceed with construction. The Energy Department said four other NuStart consortium members also have announced they expect to submit similar license applications to build Westinghouse reactors before the end of next year.

Under the new NRC licensing process, these applications will be allowed to reference the TVA application to speed up the process. Westinghouse Electric Co. is owned by Japan's Toshiba Corp.

Last month, NRG Energy Inc. submitted an application for two new reactor units at its Bay City, Texas, nuclear power plant site. Those would be boiling water reactor designs made by General Electric Co.

Prior to the NRG application, there had not been an application for a new nuclear power plant in the United States since before the Three Mile Island accident. Now the NRC says it expects as many as 21 applications for 31 reactors over the next few years.

The rush to build reflects a resurgence in nuclear power in recent years as plant owners have been able to reduce operating costs, while the costs of producing electricity from both coal and natural gas have risen. The nuclear industry also has capitalized on the argument that nuclear power does not emit greenhouse gases, a problem especially for coal-burning power plants that release large amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide.

Constellation Energy, based in Baltimore, also has been pushing ahead with plans to build a new nuclear power plant. It has submitted a partial application with the NRC for a new reactor, to be built by France's Areva Group, at the site of its existing Calvert Cliffs reactor on Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.


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