U.S. NRC Blog

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Taking a Long-Term View on New Reactor Licenses

Scott Burnell
Public Affairs Officer

Since 2012, the NRC has licensed 11 new reactors in the United States. The first four of those are under construction, two in Georgia and two in South Carolina.

The other seven? Their licenses are ready to go whenever the companies involved choose to start building them, and here’s why.

These new reactors are authorized through the NRC’s Combined License process. Under this approach the license includes permission to both build a reactor and operate it later, as long as a detailed list of completion requirements are met.

A Combined License includes the same 40-year operating period as the licenses for today’s reactors. Those 40 years start when the NRC concludes the reactor has been built according to its license and can operate safely. The construction portion, on the other hand, is set up without a definitive expiration date.

We base our permission to build the reactor on our review of technical and environmental information the applicant provided. Issuing a license means we found all that information acceptable.

Let’s imagine Company X receives a Combined License and waits 10 years before deciding to start construction. If the original information is still valid, the project could get underway. Most categories of information won’t change in that time. The license includes provisions where the company must account for new information when it decides to start construction.

All of this means that companies with a Combined License can therefore take additional time to consider those issues affecting the business decision to construct or not that fall outside the NRC’s jurisdiction. For example, a state’s utility agencies can create or revise policies on how the state obtains and pays for electricity. Changes in interest rates, prices for other electricity sources and even the makeup of regional electricity markets can affect the company’s overall business case.

Once a company concludes conditions are right for using a Combined License, the utility will give the NRC advance notice of its intent to start construction. The NRC will inspect construction activities and otherwise ensure the company meets relevant requirements for protecting the public.

11 responses to “Taking a Long-Term View on New Reactor Licenses

  1. Half-TruthSlayer May 25, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    Love the plans for these new, even safer, nuclear power plants.
    If we had to instead produce the electricity from these 10 nukes with wind generators it would require 1,560 square-miles of land. If we covered DC & Long Island with these bird-killing, unreliable & unsightly wind turbines, it would almost be enough to replace that nuclear power. Why does putting all those turbines in the backyard of Congress & the Kennedys on Long Island appeal to me so much?!

  2. Leonard Misner, Level II Test Director, working on MOX Project since 2007, working since 1972 May 15, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    As a contractor employee working on one of those projects, why are reports of legitimate safety concerns me with rhetoric and excuses. Rather than sending a list redundant responses, “we have reviewed and determined this is an issue we cannot pursue” …or “…we have reviewed the facts and circumstances associated with this concern…” and in reference to this or that, you quantify removal of redundant IROFS (Items Relied on for Safety…this should be clue enough NOT to approve removal of these redundant sensors, but you do it anyway, because you don’t have a clue why they were there in the first place, obviously not grasping the concept of consistency checking and how important that is when it comes to releasing contamination), along with alarms and warnings as acceptable for some nonsense fed to you by the contractor. You say you have technically awesome people in the NRC. How about having one of your technically awesome people offer to meet and ask some questions if you’re really as actually concerned about the public safety as much as you are defensive about anyone questioning any of your misguided decisions reflecting that your most reliable action to verify safety of the public is actually complete inaction. You espouse to defense-in-depth, and in the same voice approve of incentive-paid cost reductions which diminish safety of the systems in place. And getting you to listen to anything about safety concerns at is like talking to the wind. Leonard Misner len.misner@yahoo.com
    fyi, this comment comes from someone with 40+ years of international success involving daily hands-on experience, design, implement, qualify, CIP, optimization, safety, process, productivity, 6-Sigma conceptual limitations of variations at every level; automotive, food, pharmaceutical, printing and most recently and including being recognized with promotion to Level II Test Director on MOX Project – responsible for writing and processing of test procedures for fully integrated equipment; all process, monitoring, control, redundant SPLC critical monitoring and verification and MMIS…do you even know what MMIS or SPLC is?

  3. Giovanni Diana April 27, 2017 at 7:14 am

    Giving new licenses should be a well-thought process…

  4. Jerry April 24, 2017 at 3:50 am

    Long term will be good idea…

  5. Jorge Sullivan April 15, 2017 at 4:50 am

    Such a nice article, we liked it very much.

  6. Anonymous March 22, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    We all know the story out of the originally ordered 243 first generation power reactors only 100 or so still remains and struggling to operate. We don’t know how many out of these ” Out Of The Eleven Green Bootles Standing on the Wall” will accidentally fall???

    • Anonymous March 29, 2017 at 10:23 pm

      So my prediction is almost coming true with Westinghouse declaring Chapter 11 on Wednesday (pulling down Toshiba down with it).. So four green bottles are wobbling on the wall with 5 Billions in cost over runs as on-date (Vogtle and Summer). These are White Elephants to build here in the United States.. What with all the grandioise safety regulations, this is a pipe dream to achieve here! Good Luck New Nukes.

  7. Nikohl Vandel March 22, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    Ok, so, does this makes sense to anyone else, because I’m now lost: today we’re gonna approve construction they don’t have to start for X number of years based on today’s science in nuclear energy? I mean nuclear energy science and our need for the type of regulations we need 10 years from now … nuclear energy science is WAY too dynamic for keeping old standards for new construction. This is really stupid regulation policy, imho, which is really based on nothing except my thoughts. =) <3nikiV p.s. we really cannot be stupid with nuclear plants/weapons. thanks

    • Anonymous March 23, 2017 at 3:15 pm

      The regulators are catching up with your concerns to bring plant design to modernization, up to snug and to current day’s standards by issuing gazillion amendments to the originally issued COL, this not withstanding any backfits. That is not to diminish the kabhooki dance that the new reactor builders have to overcome – but, it is the prohibitive cost over runs and staying competitive with other market place forces of cost of generation of nuclear power with other means. Don’t worry, the safety of construction will be preserved in this country. My prediction is that, the new generation of American/European designs (AP1000/ESBWRs/EPRs) will be feasible to construct only in third world countries, not here in the U.S. (And that, there too, the U.S. Vendors will have to stand competition with Russian VVERs 3+). Nuclear business is very COSTLY!

      • Nikohl Vandel March 23, 2017 at 9:31 pm

        And then we just have the problem of waste contamination in those 3rd world, so we all ALL must be responsible for the quality and quantity of construction, especially when waste has yet to REALLY find a safe home. Oooooohhhh ….

    • Sarah April 26, 2017 at 9:55 am

      I completely agree with you here, however my concern is that without this nothing would get done either now or in the future, resulting in a cycle of waiting to get approval and then the project failing.

      I personally believe nuclear is the way to go but as you say its vitally important we construct these potentially dangerous sites in the right way.

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