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Plans For Piketon Plant Will Take Years

As Governor Strickland joins other state officials and private partners to announce plans to build in Piketon, there are no guarantees a plant will ever generate a kilowatt of electricity. The two major private partners - Charlotte, North Carolina's Duke Energy and the French company Areva - still have many regulatory hoops to jump through.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission - or NRC - is in charge of the radioactive materials use in the US. And the NRC has yet to receive an application for a "build-and-operate" license for a Piketon nuclear reactor.

Spokesman for the NRC, Scott Burnell says there are already several applications in line ahead of the Piketon project.

"At this point, the NRC is reviewing 17 applications for licenses to build and operate new plants. We are expecting an 18th application to come in - in the next few weeks," says Burnell.

Burnell says after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, there were a few applications in process that never resulted in actual nuclear facilities. Then, he says the requests dried up for several decades.

"From 1979 up until 2007 there were no applications that came in to start the process. But it was in 2007 that we started to receive those 17 applications that I talked about."

Burnell notes that since the NRC is a federal agency, its budgets are set years in advance. As a result, he says it could take until 2012 for the agency to even look at the Piketon application.

Burnell says the agency streamlined the licensing process in the 80s and 90s. Since then, no plants have been approved, so there are no statistics as to how many applications turn into operational nuclear facilities.