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Review of nuclear reactor design to take 15 months longer

Federal review of a new nuclear reactor design will take 15 months longer than expected, although the impact on planned nuclear projects is expected to be minimal, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Six U.S. energy companies, including Progress Energy and Florida Power & Light, plan to build the 1,100-megawatt Westinghouse AP1000 reactors. The delay in finalizing the reactor design is not expected to lead to significant delays in the licensing and building of planned reactors, said Scott Burnell, a spokesman for the commission.
Progress Energy, for instance, has plans for a $17 billion nuclear project in Levy County originally scheduled to come online around 2016 or 2017.
Design changes and costly delays plagued the nuclear industry in the 1970s and 1980s, leading to enormous cost overruns. For the latest round of nuclear construction, the commission worked with the industry to streamline the regulatory process. Instead of a bunch of unique reactor designs, energy companies would pick from a handful of approved "off the shelf" designs, including the Westinghouse AP1000.
The Westinghouse reactor was first approved in 2006, but has been updated 17 times since then. The updates, which include details on how the reactor will withstand the impact of an airplane, were supposed to be reviewed by March 2010. That deadline has been pushed back to August 2011.
Asjylyn Loder can be reached at aloder@sptimes.com or (813) 225-3117.