NRC Resumes Nuclear Power Plant License Renewals

on November 10, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Nuclear Power Plants Tighten Their Security

The NRC has resumed license renewals after a two-year suspension, bringing the number of commercial nuclear power plants with renewed licenses to 74.

On October 29, 2014, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) released a report highlighting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) resumption of license renewals, ending a two-year suspension on licensing decisions. The NRC resumed the process on October 20, extending the license expiration dates of Pennsylvania’s Limerick Generating Station Units 1 and 2 by 20 years (to 2044 and 2049, respectively) – bringing the number of renewals with 20-year extensions to 74.  Currently, there are 100 operating nuclear reactors in the U.S; nuclear power accounted for 20 percent of total power sector electricity generation in 2013.


Waste confidence – the determination of environmental impacts of spent nuclear fuel storage beyond a reactors’ licensed life of operation – is among NRC’s key license renewal criteria.  In June 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated NRC’s 2010 revision of the Waste Confidence Rule and directed NRC to conduct additional analysis considering the possibility that a permanent geological repository might never be built.  Subsequently, in August 2012, NRC suspended licensing decisions and directed its staff to develop a new rule with a supporting environmental impact statement.  On August 26, NRC ended its suspension of licensing decisions with the approval of a final rule on spent nuclear fuel storage, renaming “Waste Confidence” to “Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel,” which took effect on October 20.

Currently, 17 renewal applications are under NRC review, including the Indian Point Unit 2 located on the Hudson River north of New York City.  Indian Point Unit 2 continues to operate – beyond the September 2013 expiration of its 40-year license term – through a process called “timely renewal,” under which NRC rules allow operation of a reactor pending license renewal upon submission of application at least five years before the expiration date.  It is the only reactor to have entered the timely renewal process.  NRC expects to receive renewal applications from seven additional reactors from 2015-2018.

The NRC has authority to issue initial operating licenses for a 40-year period and renewals for a 20-year period.  Nuclear power plant owners decide whether or not to apply for license renewals based on economics and ability to meet NRC regulations.  The EIA noted that, to date, there have been no renewal applications that could extend plant operating lives by 80 years.

Originally published by EnerKnol.

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