At 1.1 million kilowatts, our Fermi 2 plant represents 30% of Michigan's total nuclear generation capacity. This single plant is capable of producing enough electricity to serve a city of about one million people. Fuel costs are about half those of the most efficient coal-fired plants.
Fermi 2 began commercial operations in 1988. Since that time, the plant has produced more than 143 billion kilowatt hours of electricity for Detroit Edison customers. The plant employs about 900 workers and produces about 15 percent of the power generated by Detroit Edison power plants.
In 2001, Fermi 2 was the first nuclear power plant in the state to achieve Clean Corporate Citizen (C3) status. The Department of Environmental Quality's voluntary C3 program recognizes top performers in environmental management and stewardship. Fermi 2 has maintained the designation every year since 2001. The plant has also maintained Wildlife Habitat Council certification since 2000 and has set aside 600 acres for inclusion in the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. That property is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In September 2008, Detroit Edison filed a Combined License Application (COLA) with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The proposed new plant would use the General Electric-Hitachi Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) technology. If the company decides to build the new plant, it will be located on the same 1,250-acre property that is home to Fermi 2.
While the company has not committed to building a new plant, the license application preserves the option to do so in the future. The NRC license review process may take 42 months, which could result in a Combined License award in early 2012. The total licensing and construction process for a new nuclear power plant could take as many as 11 years to complete.
By submitting the COL application in 2008, we maintain eligibility for billions of dollars in potential federal production tax credits. These savings would be passed on to customers and effectively reduce the potential cost impact of the new plant.
Michigan's 2006 Capacity Needs Forum and the 2007 21st Century Energy Plan both conclude that new base load power plants will be needed to meet Michigan's future energy needs.
No new base load plants have been built in the state since the mid-1980s and none are currently planned. Base load plants, as opposed to natural gas-fired peakers and renewables, are needed to provide long-term reliable and affordable energy.
By submitting our COL application, we leave the door open for nuclear energy as a future source of power in our state. We believe it must remain one of our options along with coal, energy efficiency, renewable energy, demand side management and conservation.