North America’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has delayed planned rulings on whether three utilities have the right to build new nuclear reactors at existing plants.

The NRC is extending the review schedules for the three Early Site Permit applications received in late 2003 after an unexpected volume of comments on Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) and other factors.

NRC staff plan to finalise the review of the North Anna site near Louisa, Va. by late December, about four months later than originally scheduled. The review of the Grand Gulf site near Vicksburg, Miss. should be finalised by mid-April 2006, also about four months later than first planned and the review of the Clinton site near Clinton, Ill. should be completed by late July 2006, about nine months later than planned.

Public comments on the draft EIS for the North Anna early site permit were much more numerous than anticipated when the NRC allocated resources for ESP reviews. The number of public comments on draft statements for the Clinton and Grand Gulf ESP sites also exceeded expectations.

If an early site permit is granted, the applicant has up to 20 years to decide whether to build a new nuclear unit on the site and to file an application with the NRC for approval to begin construction.