NRC to Issue First-Ever Combined Licenses for Construction and Operation of New Nuclear Reactors

On February 9, 2012, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced it concluded its mandatory hearing on Southern Nuclear Operating Company’s (SNC) application for two Combined Licenses (COL) at the Vogtle site in Georgia, and that in a 4-1 vote, the NRC found the staff’s review adequate to make the necessary regulatory safety and environmental findings, clearing the way for the NRC’s Office of New Reactors to issue the COLs.

The NRC staff is expected to issue the COLs within 10 business days, which will authorize SNC to build and operate two AP1000 reactors at the Vogtle site, adjacent to the company’s existing reactors approximately 26 miles southeast of Augusta, Georgia. This is the first time that the NRC has ever issued combined construction and operation licenses. Previously, construction and operation licenses were issued separately, which would often lead to changes in design or construction as the plants were being built.

The NRC’s approval of the COLs is another milestone in a long and comprehensive governmental review process. SNC submitted its COL application on March 28, 2008, and supplemented the application on October 2, 2009. Thereafter, the NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) independently reviewed aspects of the application that concern safety, as well as a draft of the staff’s Final Safety Evaluation Report (FSER). After its review, the ACRS provided the results of its review to the NRC in a report dated January 24, 2011. The NRC completed its environmental review and issued a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Vogtle COLs on March 24, 2011. The NRC completed and issued the FSER on August 9, 2011.

In addition to this application process, the NRC construction inspectors have been on-site since April 2010, examining SNC’s activities to prepare the plant’s foundation under a Limited Work Authorization the NRC issued on August 26, 2009.