Fermi, Michigan

The Detroit Edison Company, an investor-owned electric utility and subsidiary of DTE Energy, has announced its intent to build another reactor at its Fermi site near Newport City in Monroe County, Michigan. There are two reactors currently at the site.

The Detroit Edison Company has interest in applying for a construction and operation license (COL) with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) by the end of 2008 in order to remain eligible for millions worth of tax breaks provided by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Fermi 3 would be an Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) and is expected to produce 1,500-megawatts of electricity, enough for 1.5 million homes. It was designed by General Electric-Hitachi Nuclear Energy and the design is still awaiting certification from the NRC. The estimated cost of construction is $10 billion. Detroit Edison’s application to build the new reactor is 17,000 pages and costs $30 million to put together, though it has yet to be filed with the NRC. The NRC plans to spend about four years on the application, making the best case scenario for Detroit Edison to have the reactor online in 2018.

To view DTE’s application, click here.

Background

In October 1966 there was an accident at Fermi 1, an experimental reactor. A zirconium plate at the bottom of the reactor vessel became loose and blocked sodium coolant flow to some fuel subassemblies, setting off radiation monitor alarms. Fortunately, no radiation was leaked outside the plant and there were no injuries. Nearly four years later, the plant was restarted. In 1972, the core of Fermi 1 was approaching burn-up and the decision was made for it to be decommissioned. Though it no longer produces energy and hasn’t since 1972, Fermi 1 is still in the process of being officially decommissioned by the NRC. The accident in 1966, however, did spark public interest and inspired a book by John Grant Fuller and a song by Gil Scott-Heron, both titled We Almost Lost Detroit.

Fermi 2, a boiling-water reactor, is licensed to operate through 2025 and generates 1,130-megawatts. Detroit Edison has already announced that it does not intend to apply for a renewal of the Fermi 2 license, though the decision has not yet been made as to whether or not the plant will be torn down.

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