Power firm blames clash with Hitachi

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 10, 2009

Entergy Nuclear, the parent company of Grand Gulf Nuclear Station said Friday it would suspend reviews of its application to build a second nuclear plant there — for now.

It might prove to be a temporary outage, as an Entergy spokesman said that suspending the license application does not mean pulling the plug on the project at the Port Gibson facility.

“We continue to see value in developing the nuclear option,” said Paul Hinnenkamp, vice president of Entergy Nuclear’s business development function, in a prepared statement, “and the temporary suspension of the license application review effort does not reflect a change in position regarding new nuclear’s potential value.”

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At issue is a new boiling water reactor Entergy Nuclear must contract for with General Electric Hitachi. The Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor is currently being reviewed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Entergy said, but the two companies have been unable to come to terms. Consequently, Entergy asked the NRC Friday to suspend its review of that reactor.

“We just weren’t able to come to business terms with GE Hitachi,” said spokesman Mike Bowling in a telephone interview. “We are not withdrawing the application — it’s just a suspension.”

In May, a fifth revision to the design phase was submitted to the NRC, with requests made to GE Hitachi for more information about some critical parts, a spokesman said.

Friday’s statement also said the company will “temporarily defer environmental reviews related to the construction and operating license applications,” though past reports were that these environmental reviews had been completed, the first of three phases in the early site permit process.

The company announced in March 2007 that an early site permit at Grand Gulf had been approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That first phase, which took five years, concluded that the site was environmentally sound and suitable.

The second phase is the license application, which has been underway for at least two years and has involved public hearings in Port Gibson related to tax revenues, safety and evacuation routes.

In addition to Grand Gulf, Entergy Nuclear’s River Bend site in St. Francisville, La., is a potential site for an additional reactor.

Neither phase one nor phase two of the early site permit process means a decision has been made to build a second plant at Grand Gulf or River Bend. That decision will be based on energy demands and projected costs to produce electricity from various sources, the company’s statement said.

Though suspending reviews of the boiling water reactor, Entergy Nuclear affirmed its commitment to continue exploring alternative nuclear power technologies.

“The licensing efforts completed to date will be beneficial as we pursue other alternatives, and our work will be useful with respect to other reactor designs we are evaluating,” Hinnenkamp said.

The GE-designed reactor components had been reportedly pre-ordered by Entergy Nuclear after a July 27, 2007, agreement with the company.

Based on the original projected timetable after completion of the first permitting phase, a second reactor at Grand Gulf could be operation by 2017. At that time, the cost was projected to be about $4 billion, generating about 1,400 construction jobs and employing about 400 full-time workers once completed.

Grand Gulf has a 1,266-megawatt boiling water reactor on its 2,100-acre site off U.S. 61 that became operational in 1985. It employs more than 700 people.

Besides Grand Gulf and River Bend, Entergy owns and operates power plants in Arkansas, Texas, Massachusetts and other states, with revenues of more than $11 billion and approximately 14,300 employees.


Contact Pamela Hitchins at phitchins@vicksburgpost.com