The Associated Press June 3, 2011, 2:56PM ET

NRC chair expects more data soon on reactor design

Westinghouse Electric Co. will respond this month to errors in the design of a new reactor slated for use in the Southeast, allowing federal regulators to determine whether the timeline for licensing a new generation of power plants will be delayed, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko said Friday.

Jaczko said last month that Westinghouse needed to correct modeling problems in the design of its AP1000 reactor. Utility companies are seeking NRC permission to use that technology to run a new generation of nuclear power plants in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida.

The Atlanta-based Southern Co. hopes to win approval by the end of the year to build two AP1000 reactors at Plant Vogtle. If approved, Southern Co. would become the first to break ground on a nuclear plant in a generation. Also near the front of the pack is South Carolina Electric & Gas, which plans to build two of the reactors in Fairfield County.

Jaczko said the schedule for approving the reactor and licensing of new power plants "depends on what ... changes might be necessary as a result of their submittals."

Westinghouse says none of the problems identified by the NRC pose a significant safety risk and intends to submit new information to the NRC by early June, company spokesman Scott Shaw said.

"We feel that we're on schedule and we'll get design certification in the fall," he said.

Jaczko spoke to reporters in a conference call from the H.B. Robinson Steam Electric Plant, which is operated by the Carolina Power & Light Co. in Hartsville, S.C. The plant is under increased scrutiny from the NRC after it suffered fires, unexpected shutdowns and other problems.

Jaczko said that a taskforce convened after the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan will review whether U.S. plants need to better protect firefighting equipment and other emergency gear from damage that can be inflicted by natural hazards like tornadoes.


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