Nuclear News – V.C. Summer Reactors Licensed and more

1. NRC – South Carolina Electric and Gas Company has received approval for combined construction and operating licenses (COLs) from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for two new nuclear units at V. C. Summer Station in Jenkinsville, S.C. In a 4-1 vote the Commission found the NRC staff’s review adequate to make the necessary regulatory safety and environmental findings, clearing the way for the NRC’s Office of New Reactors (NRO) to issue the COLs. The NRC staff is expected to issue the COLs within 10 business days. The COLs will authorize SCE&G and Santee Cooper to build and operate two AP1000 reactors at the Summer site, adjacent to the company’s existing reactor approximately 26 miles northwest of Columbia, S.C. NRC Chairman Jackzo was again the dissenting vote The reactors are among five units that may be built in the U.S. before 2020. The estimated cost of the project is $10.2 billion.

Southern Co. (SO) on Feb. 9 won U.S. approval to build two reactors at its Vogtle plant near Augusta, Georgia, becoming the first company to receive an NRC construction permit since 1978. The Atlanta-based company expects the first unit to be in service by 2016, with the second a year later.

Scana’s first unit won’t be operational until 2017, about a year behind schedule, because of delays in the NRC’s licensing process and the second will be operational in 2018.

2. Japan is likely to decide to restart the country’s idled nuclear reactors by the time all 54 commercial reactors have suspended their operations in early May, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s policy chief Seiji Maehara suggested Wednesday.

”I think the restart of reactors may be decided by May 5,” Maehara said in a speech in Tokyo, referring to the date when the current sole operating reactor, the No. 3 unit of the Tomari plant in Hokkaido, will be suspended for a routine checkup. Two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi power plant in Fukui Prefecture have cleared the screening process of the government’s nuclear safety agency and another oversight body, leading them to await a political decision by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and related ministers over their restart.

3. Japan is letting up to 16,000 people back into their homes around its leaking nuclear power plant, easing restrictions in the no-go zone for the first time since last year’s disasters.

They won’t be allowed to stay overnight, some must wear protective gear, and it’s unclear how many will return at all, but the step is crucial to permanently resettling towns vacated since the the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami devastated the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant and caused meltdowns in three of its reactors.

A 12-mile zone around the plant has been off-limits to about 100,000 residents for more than a year because of radiation contamination. But the plant was declared stable in December, with leaks substantially subsiding, and that let officials focus on how to clean up the contamination and allow some people to return.

Under the revised evacuation plans, areas with annual exposure levels estimated at 20 millisieverts or below are deemed safe for people to visit and prepare for their permanent return, while being encouraged to make further decontamination efforts. Limited access is allowed for residents in areas with higher contamination — up to 50 millisieverts of estimated annual exposure. Places with annual exposure estimates exceeding that will remain off-limits.

4. Resource Investor – Cameco and Uranium Energy Poised for Nuclear Renaissance

After getting pummeled in 2011, shares of Cameco Corp. (NYSE: CCJ) – the world’s second-largest uranium miner – are up more than 30% this year.

Meanwhile, Uranium Resources Inc. (Nasdaq: URRE) and Uranium Energy Corp. (AMEX: UEC) are each up about 30% since the start of the year. And the Global X Uranium ETF (NYSE: URA) is up 25%.

In spite of the Fukushima disaster, the number of planned nuclear plants in the past year rose from 156 to 163. In fact, globally, the number of nuclear reactors is still on track to swell from 434 today to 820 by 2030. And 96 reactors are set to come online by 2021.

China is on track to build up to 100 nuclear reactors – nearly a quarter of the global total – by 2030.

India has announced plans to grow its nuclear power capacity from 5,000 megawatts to 63,000 megawatts by 2030. And even smaller countries in Europe, such as Poland, France, and Great Britain are pushing ahead as well – much to the consternation of some of their neighbors.

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