Consent for longer operation

17 December 2010

Five nuclear power reactors have had their operational plans extended: four in Britain and one in America. 


Duane Arnold
Iowa's Duane Arnold
EDF Energy took the opportunity of an investors meeting in London today to announce five-year extensions to the operational lives of Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors (AGRs) - two at Heysham 1 and two at Hartlepool. The units all started up in mid-1983 and are now set for shutdown in 2019.


The company noted the work to keep the units in operation condition would cost about £50 million ($77 million) each per year, which is of course far outweighed by the value of the power they generate. The company wants to extend operational plans for all its 14 AGRs by an average of five years, which it said would avoid the need for about 4000 MWe in new power plant before 2018.


EDF Energy is also preparing its pressurized water reactor, Sizewell B, for a 20-year extension. Starting up in 1995, the unit had been planned to close in 2035 after a 40-year accounting lifespan. This is now likely to be boosted to see the reactor operate into the middle of this century subject to periodic safety reviews, the next of which comes in 2015.


Various models of light-water reactors are deployed all over the world, usually built with the round figure of 40 years as an expected lifespan. In the USA for example, this is the length of initial operating licences. However, experience has shown the units can operate safely for a significant period beyond that - perhaps even to the age of 80 - and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has now granted 20-year licence extensions to some 61 reactors.


The latest of these, announced yesterday, is for the Duane Arnold nuclear power plant, operated and 70% owned by NextEra Energy in Iowa. The 600 MWe boiling water reactor started up in 1974 and was set to operate until 2014. Subject to regular checks it may now operate until 2034.


"Licence extension is a big win for our state," said owner of 10% of the plant, Corn Belt Power Cooperative. "This source of carbonless generation plays an important role in Corn Belt Power's mission to provide reliable and affordable power to the members who own its cooperatives." The other owner of Duane Arnold, with 20%, is Central Iowa Power Cooperative with 20%.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News