The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff has found no environmental concerns that would prohibit issuance of a combined construction and operating license (COL) for a two-unit nuclear plant that Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) might build one day in Cherokee County, S.C.
The NRC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Charleston District announced joint issuance of a final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the William States Lee III project on Dec. 27.
If built, the two-reactor project could generate more than 2,000 MW.
The Corps will use the document’s information in considering its federal permit decision in accordance with the Clean Water Act and Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899.
The EIS is part of NRC’s overall new plant license review for Lee.
The staff continues working on the Lee project’s final safety evaluation report (SER), which will include a review by the NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, an independent group of nuclear safety experts. The NRC’s five commissioners will conduct a separate mandatory hearing regarding the application and the staff’s review, when completed.
While all of these review activities continue, an NRC order from August 2012 directs the staff to hold off on any new reactor license decisions until completion of a rulemaking and environmental impact statement to update the “waste confidence decision.” That was sparked by a federal appeals court ruling that held NRC had not sufficiently documented that spent fuel could be stored on-site safely at nuclear plants for decades after reactors stopped operation.
NRC hopes to satisfy the court ruling and start moving ahead on various license applications in September 2014.
Duke Energy Carolinas submitted a COL application Dec. 12, 2007, seeking permission to construct and operate two AP1000 reactors at the Lee site near Gaffney, S.C. The NRC certified the AP1000 for U.S. use in December 2011.
NRC has informed Duke in August that it will be 2016 before the commission can hold a mandatory hearing on the Lee proposal. In the spring of 2013 Duke announced that it would not seek to build two new nuclear units at the Harris station in North Carolina because the capacity would not be needed for many years.