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Dominion says Unit 3 still on track, though opponents aren't too sure

 Work continues on a parking lot near a motor pool shop at North Anna Nuclear Power Station in Louisa County.
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Date published: 1/12/2013


South Carolina Electric & Gas has begun construction on two reactors at its Virgil C. Summer plant, and Southern Nuclear Operating Co. is building two reactors at its Vogtle Plant in Georgia.

They are among the first new reactors ordered in the United States since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. The last commercial reactor to go online was at Watts Bar, Tenn., in 1996. There are 104 commercial reactors operating across the nation.

Mitch Singer, a spokesman for the pro-industry Nuclear Energy Institute, said progress is being made.

"I think, overall, we're doing well. We had expected four to eight new reactors [online] by the end of this decade. With Vogtle, Summer and Watts Bar, that's five [reactors]. Given the challenges, we're doing fairly well."

Jerry Rosenthal, a Louisa County resident and member of People's Alliance for Clean Energy, which opposes Unit 3, doesn't expect to see another reactor at North Anna.

"I think the answer is pretty clear: Dominion did not even include North Anna 3 in their [integrated resource] plan for the next five years."

He said that Dominion, like "almost all utilities, is bridging the gap between full utilization of renewables with cheap natural gas" rather than depending on new reactors.

"Economically, the handwriting is on the wall." Recent industry estimates put the cost of a new reactor at between $6 billion and $10 billion.

Rosenthal said Dominion opened two large natural gas-fired plants within the past year.

"Another thing happening is that [electricity] usage is starting to go down, even though the economy is turning around."

All the while, Rosenthal said, the cost of generating power through wind and solar power continue to fall.

"And we're going to have plenty of reliable, inexpensive supply."


Back in 2003, Dominion was one of the first utilities to file an application for a new generation of reactors.

It cleared the first regulatory hurdle by receiving an early-site permit in November 2007. That allowed the company to "bank" the site for 20 years, resolve environmental and safety issues, and to complete preliminary site work. Today, Dominion is separating that site from the other two reactors so that it will be ready for construction when that time comes.

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Dominion power wants to use Mitsubishi's US-Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor design for a planned third nuclear reactor at North Anna Power Station. It is still under certification review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The reactor would generate about 1,700 megawatts, enough electricity to power about 360,000 homes.

North Anna's two existing Westinghouse Pressurized Water Reactors combined generate about 1,860 megawatts. Those came online in 1978 and 1980.

--Dominion Virginia Power