Entergy to apply by year’s end for 2nd license|[04/06/07]

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 6, 2007

JACKSON – An Entergy Nuclear official said Thursday a construction and operating license application will be filed by the end of this year to build a second reactor at Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station – but that doesn’t mean anything will happen soon.

&#8220We’ll get a construction and operating permit,” said Randy Hutchinson, senior vice-president of nuclear business development, expressing confidence after a press conference at Entergy’s Jackson offices. &#8220But I’m less confident whether it will be in four years or five years” (to obtain).

Entergy called the press conference to announce the early site permit for Grand Gulf announced by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last week.

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The permit issuance culminated a five-year process funded with taxpayer and company funds.

Entergy Nuclear operates the plant in Claiborne County. A construction and operating license (COL) application will be prepared in the name of NuStart, a consortium of several power companies.

The early site permit resolves safety and environmental questions and determines Grand Gulf is &#8220suitable for possible future construction and operation of a nuclear power plant.”

Many issues remain, however, including demand for power in the region.

A second unit would represent the first new nuclear reactor construction in the United States in more than 30 years.

Seeking the COL does not mean a decision to build a second reactor has been made, Hutchinson said. &#8220Some uncertainties remain regarding new nuclear deployment in this country,” he said. &#8220That is why we will take a measured, step-by-step approach to making a decision to new building.”

NuStart has announced the type of GE power system it would install at a second reactor, but with a COL taking five years and, if a decision to build is made, construction taking another five years, it’s at least a decade before any new plant could be operating.

Carolyn Shanks, president of Entergy Mississippi, said building another reactor at Grand Gulf is &#8220huge.”

&#8220It’s going to be a huge investment, but there are other things to consider, such as cost and construction schedule,” she said.

Other factors, Shanks said, include interest rates, the projected cost of power from the plant compared to that of other fuel choices, and state regulatory certainty regarding how costs to build another reactor are to be figured into customer rates.

Still, Gov. Haley Barbour said Thursday, a second reactor at Grand Gulf, operational since 1985, is good for Mississippi.

&#8220We need that kind of reliable energy – no emissions at all,” he said during the press conference. &#8220It’s an incredible economic development project. In four years, companies are not going to be asking what energy costs.”

Barbour said he expects work on a second reactor to cost about $4 billion. A larger nuclear plant would employ an additional 400 people, Hutchinson said. More than 700 people work at Grand Gulf, with a payroll of $64 million.

Building the first reactor took 11 years and cost more than $3 billion. Its original operating license expires in 2024.

Hutchinson said the economic benefits to Claiborne County from the construction and operation of a second reactor would be &#8220similar” to that of the 1970s, when Grand Gulf was being built.

&#8220I think you’ll see a lot of the same things,” he said. &#8220What you might not see are as many construction workers. But I’m sure our vendors are going to be looking at places as close to Grand Gulf as possible.”

About 3,500 construction jobs could be created, Entergy officials have said.

&#8220In the old days, you brought in all the parts and put them together one at a time,” Hutchinson said. &#8220We called it stick building. But we have gone to modular construction, in which large sections are built at a time and transported to the construction site.”

The early site permit is valid for 20 years and could be renewed for another 20 years.

Entergy Nuclear and Entergy Mississippi are among myriad subsidiaries of Entergy Inc., multistate power company based in New Orleans, which has also had international holdings. Grand Gulf is owned by System Energy Resources Inc. and South Mississippi Electric Power Association.

Hutchinson could not say how much tax revenue would be added by operating another reactor or how it would be disbursed.