AIKEN - Dreams of commercial nuclear power at Savannah River Site have been put on hold temporarily.
A consortium of utility companies called NuStart Energy Development LLC announced Thursday that it would prepare license applications for nuclear reactors at existing power plants in Mississippi and Alabama.
SRS was one of six sites being considered for the licensing applications.
NuStart's application process is significant in that no company has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build a new reactor since 1973. But as the demand for power has grown, electric companies have begun to explore the possibility.
NuStart spokesman Carl Crawford tried to soften the blow to SRS, saying that the consortium "told the world where the best six sites are, and that included Savannah River Site."
"If NuStart is successful in getting new licenses approved, the U.S. nuclear industry is not going to stop with one or two," said Mr. Crawford, who also is the manager of nuclear communications for Entergy Nuclear, a member of the consortium.
NuStart will prepare license applications only for Entergy's Grand Gulf power plant in Mississippi and the Tennessee Valley Authority's unfinished plant near Scottsboro, Ala. Although it won't actually build new reactors, by completing the application process the consortium is making it easier for other companies to step in and do so.
Those who lobbied on behalf of SRS said its lack of existing power connections might have hurt its chances. Mr. Crawford said that was indeed the case.
"I was a little surprised," said Fred Humes, the executive director of the Economic Development Partnership for Aiken and Edgefield counties. "I thought we had a good shot at this."
He estimated that it would have cost about $150 million or more to connect a reactor at SRS to a power grid. The site remains an attractive location for a nuclear reactor, though, because of its existing infrastructure and security and a tradition of community support for nuclear missions, Mr. Humes said.
He added that the partnership has communicated with power companies in and out of South Carolina about the possibility of nuclear power at SRS.
South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. and Santee Cooper Power, an electric cooperative in the state's Lowcountry, have announced that they are exploring the possibility of a new reactor. The Southern Co. in Georgia has said it is interested in building one at Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro, Ga.
"The real thing is that NuStart is there and they broke ground," Mr. Humes said. "The concept is good, and the need is there. There is no question the need is in the Southeast."
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A consortium of utility companies called NuStart Energy Development LLC has chosen to prepare nuclear reactor license applications for the Grand Gulf power plant in Port Gibson, Miss., and at the site of the Bellefonte twin reactors in Scottsboro, Ala.