Combined Construction and Operating Licenses
The Combined Construction and Operating License, or COL, is part of a new, "streamlined" process designed to encourage construction of new nuclear power plants by heavily subsidizing nuclear owners and removing opportunities for the public to raise important safety concerns. By combining what was previously two steps -- construction and operation -- there is no chance for the public to raise concerns about problems with the actual construction process after it begins. By the time the shovel hits the dirt, the reactor is already approved to start up.
Under the U.S. Department of Energy's Nuclear Power 2010 program, half the cost of applying for the COL will be paid by the DOE. Initial estimates for the total cost to DOE for both the COL and the similarly-financed Early Site Permit together were somewhere between $42 million and $87 million per plant. However, in May 2005 it was announced that a business consortium will receive $260 million in taxpayer funds from DOE to fund half the cost of preparing two COL applications and having one reviewed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Two other consortia have also asked and been approved for federal subsidies.
The new COL applications, along with the three Early Site Permit applications already filed by Dominion, Entergy, and Exelon, represent the two sides of the new reactor coin. The COL covers reactor design, construction, and related issues, while the ESP addresses the plant's physical location. While neither process formally commits a company to building a nuclear plant, the fact that both are happening simultaneously, while involving many of the same companies and large amounts of money, strongly indicates that these companies aren't fooling around.
For more information about the business consortia and individual companies considering applications for a COL, click these links: