The site for the proposed plant already has two old reactors. The 5-member NRC voted in favour of the licenses four to one, with Chairman Gregory Jaczko dissenting who in his dissenting note argued that the new licenses don't go far enough in requiring the builders to incorporate lessons learned from the Japanese nuclear disaster last year.
"In a 4-1 vote, the Commission found the staff's review adequate to make the necessary regulatory safety and environmental findings, clearing the way for the NRC's Office of New Reactors to issue the COLs (combined licenses)," a official release said.
The Commission imposed a condition on the COLs requiring inspection and testing of squib valves, important components of the new reactors' passive cooling system, it said. The NRC certified Westinghouse's amended AP1000 design on December 30, 2011.
The AP1000 is a 1,100 megawatt electric pressurised-water reactor that includes passive safety features that would cool down the reactor after an accident without the need for electricity or human intervention, it said.
The NRC decision in this regard is significant one. "Although new nuclear reactors have come online in the United States within the last couple of decades -- the last one started operation in 1996 -- the NRC hasn't issued a license to build a new reactor since 1978, a year before the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania. Reactors that have opened in the last decades received their initial licenses before 1978," CNN reported.