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Fermi 2 to apply for operating extension

Utility tells NRC it will submit request in 2014


DTE Energy's Fermi 2 nuclear power plant began operating in 1985 under a 40-year-license.


NEWPORT, Mich. -- DTE Energy Wednesday notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission it intends to submit its application for a 20-year license extension at Fermi 2 in 2014.

Fermi 2 is the sole nuclear plant in operation on DTE's Fermi complex in northern Monroe County, 30 miles north of Toledo and along the western Lake Erie shoreline.

The utility expects to hear in late 2012 on its application for a license to build Fermi 3, a more modern reactor. The first Fermi unit was an experimental reactor that was taken out of service years ago.

Wednesday's announcement was largely procedural. Utilities are expected to seek 20-year license extensions for nearly all of the nation's 104 nuclear plants.

The review takes an average of three years -- longer if there is an organized effort to block the license.

The NRC Wednesday granted a 20-year license extension to the Hope Creek nuclear power plant near Hancocks Bridge, N.J.. No extensions have been rejected.

Fermi 2 has the same General Electric Mark 1 design used by Japan's Fukushima nuclear plants that were devastated following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The NRC said it is examining the lessons from the Japan crisis. A special agency task force presented the results of a 90-day study to the NRC's governing board on Tuesday.

Fermi 2 came online in 1985. Its 40-year operating license expires in 2025. The NRC has told utilities to submit relicensing applications at least 10 years in advance.

Monroe nuclear activist Mike Keegan of Don't Waste Michigan said he had expected the relicensing application for Fermi 2 to be submitted next year.

He said his group plans to work with others in trying to block the extension, as it is with the application FirstEnergy Corp. now has under way for its Davis-Besse nuclear plant, 30 miles east of Toledo and also along western Lake Erie in Ottawa County.

"It's a sham. It's a paper review," Mr. Keegan said of the relicensing process, though he said he expects the nation to start taking "a hard look at the whole relicensing process" in response to Japan's nuclear disaster.

Joe Plona, Fermi 2 site vice president, said in a DTE news release that Fermi 2 "has produced safe, clean, reliable power for the past 23 years, and we want to continue serving the needs of southeast Michigan with our energy."

Fermi 2 is a 1,140-megawatt nuclear power plant. It is owned and operated by Detroit Edison, a DTE subsidiary.

Guy Cerullo, utility spokesman, said the filing with the NRC was to assist the agency with its scheduling for application reviews.

DTE won't likely decide whether it will proceed with Fermi 3 until the NRC makes a decision on that application.

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