From: Joseph Mann, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Published May 5, 2005 12:00 AM

NRC Chairman Says U.S. Needs 100 New Nuclear Power Plants across Country

The United States needs to add about 100 nuclear power plants over the next two decades to meet burgeoning demand for electric power and maintain the current generating mix, Nils J. Diaz, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission told reporters.

Nuclear power currently accounts for 20 percent of electric energy generated in the country, while fossil fuels and hydroelectric power produce most of the remainder.

Diaz, who also delivered the commencement address at Florida International University in Miami, said that the federal government has taken a series of steps to encourage private companies to build and expand nuclear facilities, while at the same time upgrading plant security norms. These include simplifying the complex licensing procedures and encouraging development of standardized plant designs.

The NRC chairman, who earlier visited Florida Power & Light Co.'s Turkey Point nuclear facility, said that building or expanding nuclear plants on existing sites would cut down on overall planning and construction costs and expedite the permitting process. By building a reactor at an existing site, companies will not have to develop costly new infrastructure, such as roads, connections to the electric grid and water supply, Diaz said.

The commission expects five or six new applications for plants over the next several years and will seek additional funding so that it will have adequate technical staff to handle them.

Last year, FPL joined a consortium of power companies, called NuStart Energy Development LLC, whose goals are to obtain a construction and operating license for a nuclear plant from the NRC and complete the design engineering for a particular reactor technology. NuStart, and two other consortia, are laying the groundwork for building plants in the future, but none of the companies involved has made any commitment to erect a new plant.

Obtaining a construction and operating license for a nuclear plant includes preparing extensive engineering and design studies. It is a complicated process that costs several million dollars and can take years to complete.

FPL, with nuclear plants at St. Lucie and Turkey Point, has indicated that it will not be the first to build a new nuclear facility.

Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

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