20 November 2013

License Application for New‑Build at US Comanche Peak Site Suspended

It was reported 8 November 2013 that Luminant Generation Company LLC (Luminant) had suspended its application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a combined operating and construction license for two 1700 MW Advanced Pressurized Water Reactors (APWR) at the Comanche Peak site in Texas. The decision followed an announcement by the APWR vendor, Mitsubishi Nuclear Energy Systems (MNES), to focus its efforts on existing services in the United States; and that of its parent company, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI), to concentrate its efforts on the restart of nuclear reactors in Japan. MNES stated it was committed to securing design certification for the APWR, but on an “extended schedule.”

Initiated in 2007, and following several delays, the NRC was planning to issue a rule making on design certification of the APWR in February 2016. No details are available as to when this will now be completed. There has been sustained opposition to the Comanche Peak APWR project over the past five years, including challenges to Luminants Combined Operating Licensing (COL) NRC application, which was scheduled for November 2011.

The APWR has been under development since 1980 but with no construction actually initiated. Plans for two APWR’s at Tsuruga in Japan are on hold following the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident, compounded by confirmation in May 2013 by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) that an active seismic fault runs through the site.

Following its original application for a construction and operating license in 2008, multiple challenges have arisen to the Comanche Peak twin reactor project. Luminant failed to secure U.S. Department of Energy Loan Guarantees for the two reactors in 2009; wholesale electricity prices have halved in Texas; and Luminant’s parent company, Energy Future Holdings, is close to bankruptcy with debts of 42 billion dollars.