Entergy to submit final application for nuclear reactor

Published 6:18 pm Thursday, January 24, 2008

Entergy Nuclear officials plan to submit an application next month for permits that would clear the way for construction of a new nuclear reactor at its Grand Gulf plant in southwest Mississippi.

Approval by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission of the Combined License Application would be one of the final steps before construction could begin. However, Entergy has not decided if the company plans to build the reactor yet and the final application process will take years.

“At this time the company has not made any decision to build, but we are working at efforts just to be ready — positioning ourselves for the future,” said Timothy Crisler, an Entergy Nuclear spokesman.

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Jackson-based Entergy Nuclear, a subsidiary of Entergy Corp., is seeking approval to build a second reactor at the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station near Port Gibson, about 25 miles south of Vicksburg.

The existing reactor, which has been producing electricity since 1985, is one of 10 operated by Entergy. The expansion project is being pushed by NuStart Energy Development LLC, a consortium of energy companies.

NuStart is also trying to get approval for two reactors near Scottsboro, Ala., at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Bellefonte site. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission earlier this week agreed to consider a combined construction and operating license application for that project.

Energy companies are trying to get a jump start on the lengthy application process so they’ll be able to respond to market needs in the future, Entergy spokesman Mike Bowling said.

“The very earliest you would be able to build a new reactor would be 2017, so if you want put yourself in a position to have that option you have to prepare now,” Bowling said. “It’s keeping the option available.”

Entergy filed the first permit application in the process in October 2003 and it could take nearly four more years for the latest application to be reviewed. Construction could take five years, officials say.

Eric Oesterle, a senior project manager with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said Wednesday that on average it takes the agency about 30 months to review a Combined License Application, the final application in the process. And even after approval, there would be a public hearing process that can last a year.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Entergy officials will hold a public meeting in Port Gibson on Feb. 21 so concerned residents can ask questions about the application.

There has been some opposition to the plans. In a formal objection filed last October with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Sierra Club and two Washington-based environmental groups — Nuclear Information and Resource Service and Public Citizen — urged the agency to hold more public hearings.

The groups said the company had not done enough to address security concerns. At the time, officials said security concerns would be addressed at the appropriate time during the application process and public hearings were planned anyway.

The division of tax money generated by Grand Gulf has also been a point of contention. Some local officials say Claiborne County, where the plant is located, should get more of the tax revenue generated there. Currently, tax revenues are split among all the counties Entergy serves in Mississippi.

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