Comanche Peak expansion suspended

Nov. 08, 2013

BY JIM FUQUAY jfuquay(at)
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Dallas-based Luminant Generation has told federal regulators that it will suspend its quest for a license to expand its Comanche Peak nuclear plant in Glen Rose, southwest of Fort Worth.

Luminant, in a letter to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, cited a recent decision by its reactor partner, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, to focus its efforts on restoring nuclear power in Japan, where reactors were idled after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and Fukushima accident. That will slow Mitsubishi’s work to gain U.S. certification of the new reactor design that was to be used at Comanche Peak.

"As a result, Luminant is suspending work" on adding two new reactors to Comanche Peak "because of its reliance on the design certification," Luminant said in a prepared statement.

The plant currently has two reactors, and Luminant in 2006 announced plans to add two more. After gaining several steps toward obtaining a license for the plant from the NRC, work on the Comanche Peak project stalled as Luminant’s corporate parent, Energy Future Holdings, flirted with bankruptcy and as wholesale power prices in Texas remained low.

"Both MHI and Luminant understand the current economic reality of low Texas power prices driven in large part by the boom in natural gas," Luminant spokesman Brad Watson saud in a prepared release. "Luminant will continue to support nuclear power as part of the solution to Texas electric reliability and will re-evaluate this decision as conditions change," Watson said.

Two Texas opponents of the Comanche Peak expansion said Friday that Luminant’s suspension "shows that the so-called nuclear renaissance has fizzled."

Karen Hadden, executive director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition, said the delay "clears the way for safer, cleaner and more affordable renewable energy in Texas."

Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office, said, "It was long believed EFH was keeping these licenses alive because they would be valuable assets in bankruptcy. This stunning decision shows how little bankers on Wall Street value nuclear power."

The letter to the NRC, dated Thursday, said that "while Luminant preferred for MHI to continue" to pursue certification of its reactor, "that alternative does not appear viable given MHI’s other priorities."

The letter goes on to say that Luminant "concluded that it does not make sense to continue to expend Luminant or NRC resources" on the work toward a new license.

Jim Fuquay, 817-390-7552 Twitter: @jimfuquay

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