By Brian Wingfield and Julie Johnsson
Toshiba Corp.’s Westinghouse Electric won majority support for the design of its AP1000 reactor from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, even as the members were feuding publicly over the panel’s leadership.
The NRC issued a notice yesterday that the third of five commission members voted to certify the design that Southern Co. and Scana Corp. plan to use for new units at existing U.S. nuclear plants.
The action opens the door for a new generation of U.S. nuclear plants, Dale Klein, a former NRC chairman, said yesterday in an interview. The AP1000 also has the potential to become a “very dominant player in worldwide nuclear activities,” according to Klein, associate vice chancellor for research at the University of Texas System in Austin.
Commissioner William Magwood voted Dec. 6 to certify the design for the AP1000, the commission said. Approval by NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko and Commissioner George Apostolakis had been announced earlier this month.
“It is a very encouraging first step on a lengthy road to the operation of new energy facilities,” Steve Kerekes, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, a Washington-based industry group, said in an e-mail.
The full commission hasn’t scheduled a vote on the final certification rule, a step before companies can win licenses to build the AP1000 reactor designed by the unit of Tokyo-based Toshiba. The NRC hasn’t issued a construction license for a U.S. nuclear plant since a partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island facility near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 1979.