Dallas-based Luminant seeks to expand Comanche Peak nuclear power plant
09:33 PM CDT on Friday, September 19, 2008
The two-reactor Comanche Peak nuclear power plant near Glen Rose would expand to four reactors under a federal application that Dallas-based Luminant filed Friday.
The proposed expansion of the Somervell County plant, about 75 miles southwest of Dallas, is part of a nationwide push for nuclear power, which backers hail as clean energy but many environmentalists oppose because of safety and waste concerns.
Getting U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval and building the new reactors could take 10 years and cost from $10.2 billion to $17 billion, according to industry estimates.
Luminant, the generating arm of Energy Future Holdings Corp., which was created in the private buyout of TXU, said it formed a joint venture with reactor vendor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which could take a 12 percent share.
Comanche Peak’s power output would more than double. The two existing reactors, operating since the early 1990s, have a combined output of 2,300 megawatts. The new reactors would produce a combined 3,400 megawatts, which Luminant said would serve 1.8 million average homes.
Power grid managers say Texas will need 15,600 additional megawatts in 10 years if old gas or coal plants shut down.
Luminant filed a 7,500-page combined operating license application with the NRC that would authorize both construction and operation of the new reactors.
Under formerly separate processes, the existing plant took 21 years to build.
Company officials announced the filing Friday before about 150 employees and civic leaders in a ceremony overlooking the two existing reactors. The filing capped two years of advance work.
“It’s a big day for our company and a big day for the state of Texas,” said John Young, chief executive of Energy Future Holdings.
Awareness of the environmental effects of fossil fuel power – from local air pollution to global warming – has boosted the U.S. nuclear industry, which went decades without starting new plants due to the public’s safety concerns and investor reluctance.
Many environmentalists say safety concerns remain, and they note that the federal government has not provided a permanent repository for reactors’ spent fuel rods, which are far more radioactive and dangerous at the end of their useful lives than when new.
This month the NRC began a three-year licensing review of U.S. Energy Department plans to put high-level waste inside Yucca Mountain, Nev.
“Nuclear power is neither safe nor clean,” said Ken Kramer, executive director of the Sierra Club’s Texas chapter.
“From our perspective, you could get pretty far down the road with greater efficiency.”
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