The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has cleared the way for the agency’s Office of New Reactors to issue two combined construction and operating licenses (COLs) for the Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) Levy County site in Florida.
Based on the mandatory hearing on Duke’s application, the Commission found the NRC staff’s review adequate to make the necessary regulatory safety and environmental findings. NRC made the announcement Oct. 20.
Following the commissioners’ direction, the NRC staff will work to issue the COLs promptly. The licenses will authorize Duke Energy Florida to build and operate two 1,100-MW Westinghouse Electric AP1000 reactors at the site, near Inglis in Levy County.
Duke is not expected to start construction on a new nuclear reactor anytime soon given today’s market of cheap natural gas and low power prices. But Duke, like other nuclear operators, wants the option of building new nuclear units in the low-carbon future.
“We continue to regard new nuclear as a viable option for future energy generation and understand the importance of fuel diversity in creating a sustainable energy future,” said Duke Energy spokesperson Rick Rhodes.
Duke will weigh everything from gas prices to CO2 regulation to cost-recovery in deciding whether to go forward on Levy County at some point, Rhodes said.
Duke also has a nuclear plant license application before NRC for the William States Lee III Nuclear Station in Cherokee County, South Carolina.
The staff will impose conditions on the Levy County license, including:
• Specific actions associated with the agency’s post-Fukushima requirements for mitigation strategies and spent fuel pool instrumentation; and
• A pre-startup schedule for implementing post-Fukushima aspects of the new reactors’ emergency preparedness plans and procedures.
Progress Energy Florida (now Duke Energy Florida) submitted its COL application for Levy County on July 30, 2008, at a time when it was assumed that a major round of nuclear construction might soon get underway.
The NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards independently reviewed those aspects of the Levy County application that concern safety.
The committee provided the results of its review to the NRC on Dec. 7, 2011, and provided the results of its review of several exemption requests on April 18, 2016. The NRC completed its environmental review and issued the final environmental impact statement for the proposed Levy County reactors in April 2012.