The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has authorized a combined construction and operating license (COL) for a third reactor at Dominion Virginia Power’s operating North Anna nuclear plant in near Mineral Spring, Va.
The NRC has already certified the design of a 1,600 MW GE Hitachi Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) for the project.
If Dominion decides to proceed with the project, the earliest online date would be September 2028.
Nuclear power is under a cloud in the United States right now. Another nuclear plant closure was added to a growing list last week when Exelon said it plans to shut its Three Mile Island nuclear station in Pennsylvania as a result of low prices in the PJM Interconnection’s most recent capacity auction.
And the only two new reactors to begin construction in the past 30 years – Georgia Power’s Vogtle and SCANA’s V.C. Summer in South Carolina – are now in jeopardy because the contractor, Westinghouse Electric, is in bankruptcy.
In this environment, Dominion’s continued pursuit of a third reactor at North Anna would seem to be a risky move. Dominion filed for the COL with the NRC in 2007. In testimony before the Virginia State Corporation Commission in 2015, Scott Norwood, an independent consultant, estimated the cost of the project at $19.3 billion and recommended against it.
But the COL does have option value for Dominion, especially in the wake of Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) signing of a directive that would move the state toward limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
“Having the COL in hand provides us with valuable option to move forward, if and when it make sense to do so,” Dominion spokesman Richard Zuercher said in an emailed response to a question.
“Currently, there is a lot of uncertainty about carbon regulation. North Anna Unit 3 would produce virtually no carbon dioxide, and its ability to operate safely and reliably on a 24/7-basis could help us meet any national carbon reduction requirements imposed by the government,” Zuercher said.