The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is still reviewing a permit application for a site in west Oak Ridge where two or more small modular nuclear reactors could be built.
The application for the early site permit for the Clinch River Nuclear Site was submitted by the Tennessee Valley Authority on May 12, 2016. The application was supplemented by a revision on January 18, 2019, the NRC said in a notice published in the Federal Register on Friday.
The 935-acre Clinch River Nuclear Site is located in the Roane County portion of Oak Ridge along the Clinch River.
Oak Ridge Today reported in April that the NRC had issued a final environmental impact statement, and the staff had recommended, based upon the environmental review, issuing the early site permit.
An early site permit is the NRC’s approval of a site for one or more nuclear power facilities. It does not authorize the actual construction and operation of a new nuclear power plant. That requires a construction permit and an operating license, or a combined license.
The NRC said the application and review process for an early site permit makes it possible to evaluate and resolve safety and environmental issues at a site before an applicant commits a lot of resources to the project. If an early site permit is approved, an applicant can “bank” the site for up to 20 years.
Now that the final environmental impact statement has been published, there will be a mandatory hearing with the NRC after a final safety evaluation report is issued. Oak Ridge Today has previously reported that the NRC expects that report to be published in June. The five-member commission will make a decision after the hearing about whether to issue the early site permit.
A contested hearing could be held by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board panel if a member of the public or an organization successfully files a petition that raises safety or environmental concerns about granting the site a permit, the NRC said.
The NRC said an authorization for the construction or operation of new nuclear units at the Clinch River site is not being sought at this time.
The potential timing of any reactors being built at the site is not clear. Among other things, TVA doesn’t control the reactor certification process.
“There are currently no certified small modular reactor designs available, but TVA will continue working to ensure we are ready to fully evaluate them when they are available,” TVA spokesperson Jim Hopson said in April.
Financial considerations would have to be evaluated, and the TVA board of directors would have the final decision “based on what they believe will be in the best interest of the people of the Tennessee Valley,” Hopson said.
See the Federal Register notice here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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