Constellation files Clinton licence renewal application

16 February 2024

The 20-year licence renewal would allow the Illinois nuclear power plant to continue providing carbon-free energy to the region until 2047 with adequate market or policy support, Constellation Energy Corp said.

The Clinton plant (Image: NRC/Exelon)

Filing the licence renewal application with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) kicks off a comprehensive regulatory review process which will proceed along two tracks, one for the review of safety issues and another for environmental issues. The process involves site inspections, environmental reviews and public participation. This would be a first licence renewal for the single-unit boiling water reactor (BWR) unit, which entered commercial operation in 1987 and is currently licensed to operate until April 2027.

"Our nation desperately needs more new, clean, firm megawatts to power our homes, businesses, and new technologies to improve our everyday lives," Constellation President and CEO Joe Dominguez said. "This facility has operated 24/7 during the most extreme summer and winter weather to hit the Midwest in a generation, and we are doing everything possible to ensure it has the opportunity to continue to operate for another 20 years."

The continued operation of Clinton has been enabled by Illinois state legislation enacted in 2016 that recognises the unique environmental, economic and reliability benefits of nuclear energy, Constellation said, but added that future policy and market conditions will ultimately determine how long the plant operates. Federal nuclear production tax credits - announced in 2022 as one of the initiatives under the wide-ranging Bipartisan Infrastructure Law - provide policy support until 2032.

"Renewing the licence of Clinton would provide the State of Illinois an estimated 179 terawatt hours of additional carbon-free electricity over the 20-year extended lifespan of the licence," the company said. "This is more clean energy than all of Illinois' wind and solar facilities have produced to date."

The site employs 532 people and is the largest employer in De Witt County, where it is situated, and Dan Matthews, president of the Clinton School District Board and a member of the DeWitt County Board, said that as well as being the largest carbon-free electricity source in Central Illinois, it also provides a major boost to the economy. "The more than USD13 million in annual property taxes supports education and county services, and the large number of employees live here and spend money, which supports local business and creates additional jobs. The plant's relicensing is an important part of DeWitt County’s economic future," he said.

Constellation said the Clinton licence renewal application is the latest in a series of clean-energy investments, following its acquisition of a 44% stake in the South Texas Project nuclear plant, a USD800 million uprate project at the Braidwood and Byron nuclear plants in Illinois, and a USD350 million uprate of its Criterion Wind Project in Maryland.

It intends to file a second licence renewal for its two-unit Dresden nuclear power plant, also in Illinois, later this year. The Dresden BWR units have previously received a first licence renewal from the NRC and are currently licensed to operate until 2029 and 2031 respectively. They would have faced early permanent closure in November 2021 had Illinois not passed its policy reforms to support their continued operation.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News