A new nuclear reactor coming to Michigan?

Jan 17, 2013

Call it Fermi 2 plus one.

DTE Energy wants to build "Fermi 3," an Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) at its Enrico Fermi Nuclear Plant on the shores of Lake Erie near Monroe, Michigan.

The company's Fermi 2 nuclear power plant has been operating there since 1988.

If Fermi 3 is built, it would bring the number of nuclear reactors operating in Michigan up to five (two reactors at the Donald C. Cook nuclear power plant, one at Palisades, and DTE's Fermi 2).

The company has cleared a regulatory hurdle with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency that oversees nuclear power plants across the country.

The NRC approved Fermi 3's environmental impact statement (EIS), finding there are no major environmental concerns that would keep the project from going forward.

Power magazine has more on the announcement:

The EIS is a significant milestone for the project, and NRC staff have recommended final approval for the reactor's combined license. A notice of availability of the final EIS is expected to be published in the Federal Register on Jan. 18.

The NRC in March 2011 gave GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's ESBWR design a positive final safety evaluation report and final design approval. Full certification is expected to be completed this year.

Robin Erb at the Detroit Free Press quotes the NRC.

The reactor, known as Fermi 3, is the only one currently proposed in the Midwest.

The report's conclusion clears a major hurdle, but the design of the reactor, as well as its safety, still must be reviewed, said NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng.

If it's built, it would be a feather in the cap of the nuclear power industry, which has struggled to get new reactors up and running.

Of the current operating nuclear reactors, the last one to go online was the Tennessee Valley Authority's Watts Bar 1 reactor.

In went online in 1996.

Watts Bar 2 is expected to go online this year, according to the Energy Information Administration.