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Feds issue license for third reactor

Posted on Monday, June 12, 2017 at 5:00 am

Though the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says a third nuclear reactor can be built on Lake Anna, the State Corporation Commission has yet to approve the estimated $19 billion project cost.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it has granted a license to Dominion Energy to build a third reactor on Lake Anna.

While the license, issued on June 2, is a milestone in planning for Unit 3, Dominion still needs approval from the State Corporation Commission, which has been skeptical of the reactor’s $19 billion construction price tag. The company also must decide whether more nuclear energy is needed, given the growing supply of natural gas and renewables.

The federal Clean Power Plan, championed by former President Barack Obama, calls for an emphasis on clean-burning energy sources. This approach favors nuclear energy, though some environmentalists oppose nuclear because it generates waste that must be stored permanently.

However, even with the Clean Power Plan, which President Donald Trump has challenged, there’s no guarantee Dominion will need to build Unit 3. The company may be able to meet its needs through a combination of natural gas, coal, renewables such as solar and wind and existing nuclear plants.

“Even though there seems to be an effort to throw out the Clean Power Plan, our utilities are pretty aggressive in being environmentally friendly,” Ken Schrad, information resources director for the State Corporation Commission, said. “Virginia is 85 percent of the way there in meeting what the Clean Power Plan would require.”

An SCC official cast doubt in testimony last August that building Unit 3 makes financial sense, given its potential cost. His remarks followed those of a Virginia assistant attorney general who told the SCC in October 2015 that the project should be scrapped. Dominion has spent roughly $600 million thus far on planning the reactor.

Dominion has not applied yet for an SCC permit for the project.

To read the entire story, see the June 8 edition of The Central Virginian.