Feds Closer To Approving Building First U.S. Nuke Plant In Generation

December 14, 2011 12:00 AM
Feds Closer To Approving Building First U.S. Nuke Plant In Generation
" ATLANTA (AP) — Federal regulators are leaning toward approving a nuclear reactor designed by Westinghouse Electric Co. that could power the first nuclear plants built from scratch in a generation.

A majority of the members of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission have released statements saying they voted to approve the AP1000 reactor, most recently Commissioner William Magwood IV, who publicly released his vote Wednesday. Magwood is the third of the five commissioner to vote in favor of the reactor, although it is possible that other commissioners have voted but not publicly released their ballots.

The commissioners can change their preliminary votes, which are not official until the NRC holds a final vote during a public meeting.

Still, the early support is a step forward for utility companies in Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas that have billions of dollars riding on plans to build that reactor in the Southeast. Until the NRC approves the reactor design, those utilities cannot get a license to build their plants.

Westinghouse, based in Cranberry Township, Pa., says its new reactor is safer because it relies on what it calls passive forces such as gravity and convection — not diesel generators and electric pumps and motors — to run emergency cooling systems. That contrasts with the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan, which suffered three meltdowns, explosions and released radiation into the environment after a March 11 tsunami wrecked its backup power systems. "

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