NRC to hear challenges on DTE proposed new Michigan nuclear reactor
Oct 18 (Reuters) - The judicial arm of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hear challenges by environmental groups on Michigan power company DTE Energy Co's proposal to build a new nuclear power reactor in the state.
The NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) will hold the hearing to assess the proposed plant's impact on wildlife on October 30 in Monroe, the NRC said in a statement. The ASLB is the independent body within the NRC that adjudicates and renders decisions on legal challenges to licensing actions.
DTE has not yet decided to build the new reactor at its Fermi nuclear plant but has said it filed with the NRC to do so in order to keep its options open.
With the high cost of construction, the low cost of natural gas and little growth in power demand, analysts expect no new reactors to be built in the United States for several years, other than those already under construction in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Fermi is located on the shore of Lake Erie near Monroe about 40 miles (64 km) south of Detroit. One reactor is operating at the site - the 1,085-MW Unit 2. Fermi 1 stopped operating in the early 1970s.
DTE filed with the NRC to build one of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's 1,550-MW Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactors (ESBWR) at the Fermi site. GE-Hitachi is a nuclear alliance between U.S. conglomerate General Electric Co and Japanese conglomerate Hitachi Ltd.
According to its website, the NRC said it could decide on DTE's application to build the new reactor in 2015. The NRC however also said on its website it was revising its schedule for certifying the ESBWR reactor from the end of 2013.
The environmental groups opposed to DTE's application have argued the environmental review of the proposed reactor fails to adequately analyze and discuss impacts on the eastern fox snake at the site. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources lists the eastern fox snake as a "threatened" species due in part to habitat loss.
The groups also argued that quality-assurance concerns regarding safety-analysis work by DTE prevent the NRC from issuing a license for the proposed reactor.
The NRC said the ASLB hearing on Oct. 30 will examine these two arguments.
For a factbox on proposed nuclear power reactors