Aiken-Augusta area nuclear power boosters are disappointed, but not surprised, that the NuStart Energy consortium took a pass on naming the Savannah River Site as a potential location for one of two commercial nuclear power plants - the first in more than 30 years.
Instead, the utility consortium announced Thursday it would prepare license applications, to be presented to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to construct nuclear reactors at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Bellefonte nuclear plant in Scottsboro, Ala., and the Grand Gulf nuclear plant in Port Gibson, Miss.
NuStart will not build the reactors, but the license applications, if approved by the NRC, would open the way for other companies to come in and build them. In short, the license applications are a crucial first step, and SRS had been in the running as one of six sites being considered for that process.
SRS has the scientific and engineering expertise to be competitive with the other sites, and its national laboratory was also a major asset. But what it lacked was the vast network of transmission lines available at the other plants.
"We would have had to have made additions to our system," said Fred Humes of the Aiken-Edgefield Economic Development Partnership. "If we had to negotiate for right-of-ways, that would have been another obstacle to overcome."
NuStart spokesman Carl Crawford agreed with Humes' assessment, but he also made the optimistic point that SRS was still one of the six best locations in the nation for a new reactor and that if nuclear energy makes its long-delayed comeback, as expected, a commercial nuclear power plant may yet be very much a part of SRS' future.