Early Site Permits

For an in-depth fact sheet on the Early Site Permit process, click here.

An early site permit essentially allows a specific location to be approved for building a new nuclear power plant without a company actually committing to building a reactor or using any specific reactor design.  Instead, the site is approved for a range of designs.  Once an early site permit is issued, there are many environmental and public health and safety issues that cannot be challenged for the duration of the permit, usually 20 years with the option of at least a 20-year extension.  A utility company is granted permission to apply for a construction and operation license (COL) at any point during that time without having to revisit site-specific factors and contentions, even in light of new information that may raise additional safety concerns.

Public Citizen and other groups oppose the early site permit process based on the fact that it artificially segments and disjoints the process of designing and approving a specific reactor for a specific site and decreases the opportunity for the public and surrounding communities to have meaningful involvement in decisions affecting their health and safety.  Deadlines for filing contentions are unreasonably short and tend to pass before most concerned people even become aware of the situation.  Many factors that should logically be included in such a permit, such as security and waste issues, are ignored completely.  Other issues, such as the need for additional power generating capacity in that geographic area, the impact a new nuclear plant in that area will have on the cost of power, and alternative soures of power generation for that area, are not even considered.  Instead, they are postponed until a later stage called the Combined Construction and Operating License (COL), the other side of the new reactor coin.  For more information on COLs, click this link:

Spotsylvania County in Virginia, has passed a resolution opposing the early site permit process and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also voiced concerns, writing that allowing postponement of energy alternatives "biases the subsequent energy alternative analysis toward nuclear power," and that the twenty-year duration for the permit is unreasonably long.

Finally, as part of a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) "pilot program," fully half the cost for companies to file early site permit applications is being paid by the DOE with taxpayer money, with final costs estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars.

For more information about what companies are seeking early site permits and where, visit these links: