The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued combined construction and operating licenses (COLs) for Nuclear Innovation North America (NINA) to potentially build two new reactors at the South Texas Project site in Matagorda County, Texas.
NRC had announced plans for issuance of the licenses in February. The licenses actually became effective Feb. 12 although the record of decision for the COLs was just published in the Federal Register on March 21.
Issuance of the licenses is largely considered a placeholder to keep option of new nuclear construction open to NINA, which includes one of the same owners as the existing STP nuclear units.
Given weak power prices and cheap natural gas, it is not believed that NINA will look to make the multi-billion-dollar investment in new nuclear anytime soon.
NRG Energy (NYSE:NRG) is a majority owner of NINA and Toshiba is a minority owner. In April 2011, weeks after the Fukushima disaster in Japan, NRG said it was writing down its investment for STP Units 3 and 4 but would continue to pursue the NRC license through its nuclear development affiliate NINA.
The licenses will authorize NINA to build and operate two Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) units at the site near Bay City, Texas, provided that certain conditions are met.
The South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Co. already operates two reactors at the site. The existing two units are owned by NRG (44%); CPS Energy (40%); and Austin Energy (16%). The units are run by STP Nuclear.
“With respect to the application for combined licenses filed by NINA, the NRC finds that the applicable standards and requirements of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended (AEA), and the Commission’s regulations have been met,” NRC said in the March 21 Federal Register notice.
The NRC found that the license applicants are “technically and financially qualified” to run such a nuclear power project.
License numbers NPF–097 and NPF–098 to Nuclear Innovation North America LLC (NINA), STP Nuclear Operating Company, NINA Texas 3 LLC, NINA Texas 4 LLC, and the City of San Antonio, Texas, acting by and through the City Public Service Board (collectively, the Licensees) for South Texas Project, Units 3 and 4 (STP Units 3 and 4).
In addition, the NRC has prepared a summary ROD that supports the NRC’s decision to issue combined license numbers NPF–097 and NPF–098.