Seeking to address its energy and environmental protection goals, Detroit Edison (DTE), Michigan’s largest electric utility, has selected GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s next-generation ESBWR advanced reactor design for a potential new unit at its existing Fermi 2 Power Plant site on the shore of Lake Erie, 35 miles south of Detroit.
DTE recently notified the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) of its plans to choose the 1,520-megawatt ESBWR when it submits a combined operating license application (COLA) to the agency in September.
DTE is the fourth U.S. energy company to select the Generation III+ ESBWR for a total of six potential reactor units. Under a recent agreement, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) will provide DTE technical support for the COLA.
“We are extremely pleased that DTE has selected the ESBWR for a potential new unit to help the state meet its long-term energy needs,” said Jack Fuller, GEH President and CEO.
The ESBWR plant project could create up to 3,000 temporary construction jobs and up to 700 permanent engineering and other support positions, resulting in a potential economic ripple effect totaling $500 million annually for the Michigan economy.
DTE’s selection of the ESBWR comes as a growing number of U.S. utilities are considering whether to invest in building new fleets of advanced reactors to help address the country’s converging concerns over energy supply security and global climate change.
Nuclear energy is receiving increased public support as one of the few available, base-load sources of power that do not create carbon emissions during the generating process. A May 2008 public opinion survey by Zogby International shows 67% of Americans support the construction of nuclear plants.
Currently, 104 licensed nuclear reactors operate in the United States, providing about 20% of the country’s electricity. However, as the nation’s demand for energy continues to outpace production, utilities will need to build 20 to 25 new, advanced reactors by 2030to simply maintain nuclear energy’s 20% role in the nation’s energy portfolio, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.
DTE is considering building an ESBWR plant to help address the recommendations of the state’s 21st Century Energy Plan, which makes clear Michigan’s need for additional plants over the next two decades to ensure sufficient generating capacity.
“By preparing and submitting a COLA now for a potential ESBWR, we are acting in the best interests of our customers by making sure we are doing everything we can to meet the state’s future energy, environmental and economic needs,” said DTE Chairman and CEO Anthony Earley Jr.
“However,” Earley said, “before we can commit to building a new plant, the Michigan legislature must make changes to the state’s current regulatory structure. A package of bills that would make some of the necessary changes is pending, and we urge the legislature to adopt those measures so that we move forward with this investment in Michigan’s long-term energy future.”
While submitting a COLA does not commit DTE to build the reactor project, it is necessary for utilities to submit COLAs by Dec. 31, 2008 to be eligible for federal financial incentives included in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Earley noted.
In addition to the ESBWR, GEH also is offering its Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) design to U.S. utilities seeking a commercially proven, NRC-certified model that also features some of the operational and safety design benefits of the ESBWR. The ABWR is the world’s first Generation III reactor in commercial operation and served as the foundation for the evolutionary ESBWR design.
“As utilities prepare to meet their future power generating capacity requirements and environmental obligations,” said GEH’s Fuller, “they will need to have as many base-load supply options as possible, including advanced, safe nuclear energy.”
About GEH Nuclear Energy
Based in Wilmington, N.C., GEH is a world-leading provider of advanced reactors and nuclear services. Established in June 2007, GEH is a global nuclear alliance created by GE and Hitachi to serve the global nuclear industry. The new nuclear alliance executes a single, strategic vision to create a broader portfolio of solutions, expanding its capabilities for new reactor and service opportunities. The alliance offers customers around the world the technological leadership required to effectively enhance reactor performance, power output and safety.
About Detroit Edison
Detroit Edison is an investor-owned electric utility serving 2.2 million customers in Southeastern Michigan and a subsidiary of DTE Energy (NYSE: DTE), a Detroit-based diversified energy company involved in the development and management of energy-related businesses and services nationwide. Information about DTE Energy is available at www.dteenergy.com.