NRC extends plant licence, COLA review

28 May 2012

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has agreed to extend the operating licence of the single-unit Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Massachusetts for a further 20 years. Meanwhile, the expected completion of the NRC's review of Progress Energy's combined construction and operating licence application (COLA) for its Levy plant in Florida has been revised.

Pilgrim (Entergy)
Pilgrim (Image: Entergy)

Entergy Nuclear submitted its licence renewal application for Pilgrim to the NRC in January 2006. The plant's original 40-year licence was scheduled to expire on 8 June 2012. Entergy said that, after "the longest licence review on record," the renewed licence enables Pilgrim to operate until 2032.

NRC staff requested authorization from the commission to renew the plant's licence even though some contentions by polticians and environmental groups remain under adjudication before an NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. The NRC noted that this authorization specifies that "if the renewed licence is subsequently set aside on appeal, the previous licence would be reinstated."

Three of the NRC's five commissioners voted in favour of Pilgrim's licence renewal, while chairman Gregory Jaczko voted against it and another commissioner did not participate in the vote. Jaczko said he was against the licence renewal because he thought all challenges to an application should be resolved before the commissioners vote on it.

John Herron, president, CEO and chief nuclear officer of Entergy Nuclear, said: "The NRC conducted extremely thorough safety and environmental reviews of Pilgrim's application for licence renewal and concluded the station can safely operate another 20 years."

Vice president of the Pilgrim plant Robert Smith said, "The NRC spent more than 20,000 hours conducting inspections and reviews. At the end of the process, we effectively demonstrated that our systems, structures and components will continue to safely perform their intended function during the 20-year renewal period."

Pilgrim's 688 MWe boiling water reactor began operating in 1972 and currently produces almost 10% of Massachusetts' electricity.

Levy COLA review

Progress Energy has been progressing a plan to build two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at a greenfield site in Levy County, Florida. It submitted a COL application to the NRC for the Levy plant in August 2008. However, earlier this month the utility informed Florida's Public Service Commission that it has put back the schedule for the plant's development by three years. It now plans on having the first new reactor operable from 2024 with the second following 18 months later.

In mid-March, the NRC issued a request for additional information to Progress to address recent requirements resulting from the NRC's response to the Fukushima accident in Japan. Progress informed the NRC on 12 April that it would submit a revised final safety analysis report containing appropriate updated seismic information in August 2012.

The NRC has informed Progress that it now expects to issue a final safety evaluation report (FSER) related to the utility's COL application in October 2012.

The NRC noted that, should the pending merger between Progress and Duke Energy be completed before the NRC issues the FSER, Progress would be required to submit a revised COL application containing appropriate updated financial and ownership information. The NRC would then need to evaluate the updated information.

A mandatory NRC hearing on the application is scheduled to be held by February 2013.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News