NRC concludes hearing on Summer new reactors, combined licenses to be issued

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has concluded its mandatory hearing on the South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) and Santee Cooper application for two Combined Licenses (COL) at the Summer site in South Carolina.

In a 4-1 vote the Commission found the NRC staff’s review adequate to make the necessary regulatory safety and environmental findings, clearing the way for the NRC’s Office of New Reactors (NRO) to issue the COLs.

The commission’s findings impose two conditions on the COLs, with the first requiring inspection and testing of squib valves, important components of the new reactors’ passive cooling system. The second requires the development of strategies to respond to extreme natural events resulting in the loss of power at the new reactors. The Commission also directed NRO to issue to SCE&G and Santee Cooper, simultaneously with the COLs, an Order requiring enhanced, reliable spent fuel pool instrumentation, as well as a request for information related to emergency plant staffing.

The NRC staff is expected to issue the COLs within 10 business days. The COLs will authorize SCE&G and Santee Cooper to build and operate two AP1000 reactors at the Summer site, adjacent to the company’s existing reactor approximately 26 miles northwest of Columbia, S.C. An NRC construction inspector has been on-site since October 2011, examining SCE&G’s activities to prepare the site.

SCE&G and Santee Cooper submitted the COL application on March 27, 2008. The NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) independently reviewed aspects of the application that concern safety, as well as a draft of the staff’s Final Safety Evaluation Report (FSER). The ACRS provided the results of its review to the Commission in a report dated Feb. 17, 2011. The NRC completed its environmental review and issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Summer COLs on April 15, 2011. The NRC completed and issued the FSER on Aug. 17, 2011.

The NRC certified Westinghouse’s amended AP1000 design on Dec. 30, 2011. The AP1000 is a 1,100 megawatt electric pressurized-water reactor that includes passive safety features that would cool down the reactor after an accident without the need for electricity or human intervention.