U.S. Utilities Exploring Nuclear Options

With rising natural gas prices and continuing environmental concerns about coal, U.S. utilities are reconsidering the potential advantages of nuclear-power generating plants. Chicago-based Exelon Generation and Richmond, Va.-based Dominion Resources have both begun the permit-application process to build nuclear plants on land adjoining some of their existing plants.

By Staff December 1, 2003

With rising natural gas prices and continuing environmental concerns about coal, U.S. utilities are reconsidering the potential advantages of nuclear-power generating plants. Chicago-based Exelon Generation and Richmond, Va.-based Dominion Resources have both begun the permit-application process to build nuclear plants on land adjoining some of their existing plants.

Neither company has announced immediate plans to build new nuclear facilities. The applications for early site permits represent the first stage of a two-stage process now required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The approval process for these permits could take up to 33 months, according to a Sept. 25 Reuters report. The utilities would then have to apply for a license to build and operate a reactor if they decided to proceed with construction.

In both cases, the permits cover plants designed to contain more reactors than were eventually built. Exelon’s application targets its Clinton, Ill., facility, which was originally intended to include two reactors instead of just the existing single unit. Dominion is seeking to add a third unit to its twin-reactor North Anna station in Mineral Virginia. That site was planned for a total of four units.