PSEG Nuclear has applied to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for 20-year extensions to the operating licences of its Salem and Hope Creek nuclear power plants, both in New Jersey.
|Hope Creek (Image: NRC)
The current 40-year operating licence of Salem Unit 1 - a 1174 MWe pressurised water reactor (PWR) - is set to expire in 2016, while that of Unit 2 - a 1130 MWe PWR - will expire in 2020. The licence for the single-unit Hope Creek plant - a 1211 MWe boiling water reactor (BWR) - expires in 2026.
New nuclear power plants in the USA are licensed to operate for 40 years and this was seen as a reasonable return period for the investment when the current fleet was built. However, with proper standards of maintenance it is now clear that the reactors can actually operate safely for much longer periods and the NRC has so far granted further 20-year licenses to 54 US reactors in recent years. Effectively, this has given the country's 104-reactor fleet a 50% boost on original expectations, while 19 more applications are currently with the NRC.
At the same time as license renewal, most operators make upgrades to their reactors to improve performance. Tom Joyce, president and chief nuclear officer of PSEG Nuclear, said "Last year, we replaced our steam generators at Salem 2 and implemented an extended power uprate at Hope Creek, adding approximately 200 MWe of clean power."
In a statement, PSEG said that a "dedicated license renewal team has collectively worked 122,000 person hours preparing the stations' applications that combined total approximately 4000 pages. This involved review of thousands of documents, a detailed review of equipment and component performance and a rigorous review of the existing maintenance and engineering programs to ensure that Salem and Hope Creek are capable of maintaining plant systems an additional 20 years."
The NRC is expected to spend 22 to 30 months reviewing PSEG Nuclear's licence renewal applications before making a decision.