New nuclear in Dominion's long-term plan

22 September 2009

A new reactor at Dominion's North Anna nuclear plant figures in the company's long-term plans for an extra 7900 MWe of capacity to meet projected electricity demand over the next 15 years.

North Anna 3 (Image: Dominion)
What North Anna 3 could look like (Image: Dominion)

State legislation brought in last year requires Virginia utilities to file a biennial Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), identifying the most cost-effective way to meet forecast growth in energy demand using existing and potential new resources for the next 15 years. According to Dominion Virginia Power's newly filed 2009 IRP, it will need additional resources totalling some 8900 MWe, of which around 950 MWe would be met by energy conservation, leaving it needing around 7900 MWe in new capacity.

To develop the IRP, Dominion Virginia Power drew up five alternative plans to test different resource strategies over the fifteen year planning period, including a variant with no nuclear expansion. These were then assessed under different sensitivities and scenarios to identify a single plan which, according to the 248-page document submitted to the Virginia State Corporation Commission, provides the most consistent lowest reasonable cost plan under potential future conditions.

Despite doubts early this year over Dominion's commitment to the 1550 MWe Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) design, it remains part of the company's plans as part of 1900 MWe of additional generating capacity to be under development by 2024. "Nuclear power is a critical component of the company's plan to achieve fuel diversity, stable long-term customer electric rates, and low emissions," the plan notes.

While Dominion Virginia Power is at pains to point out that it has not yet fully committed to build North Anna 3, it intends to "maintain the option to do so". If built, the unit would be the so-called lead unit of the ESBWR design to be built in the US. A combined construction and operation license application for the unit was filed with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in November 2007, and the company is looking towards a 2018 start-up date for the plant. Earlier this year it issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to licence, engineer, procure and construct the unit, and says it is still evaluating the resultant nuclear unit designs and proposals it has received. The company has also applied for a federal loan guarantee for the project from the US Department of Energy.

The North Anna site, which is already home to two operating nuclear units, received an Early Site Permit (ESP) from the NRC in November 2007, declaring the site suitable for a new nuclear plant on safety, environmental and related grounds.

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