Duke applies for Oconee subsequent licence renewal

22 June 2021

Duke Energy has filed an application with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to renew the operating licences for the Oconee nuclear power plant for an additional 20 years. The company plans similar operating licence renewals for all 11 reactors it operates, to support its carbon reduction goals.

Oconee (Image: Duke Energy)

The first two of the three pressurised water (PWR) units at the power station on Lake Keowee in Seneca, South Carolina, were connected to the grid in 1973, and the third in 1974. They are currently licensed to operate to the early 2030s; subsequent licence renewal would extend the operating period to 2053 for units 1 and 2 and 2054 for unit 3. Oconee is Duke Energy's largest nuclear station, with a total capacity of over 2500 MWe, and the first for which it has submitted an application for subsequent licence renewal.

"Oconee Nuclear Station has provided safe, reliable, carbon-free energy to customers and our communities for nearly 50 years," Oconee Nuclear Station Site Vice President Steve Snider said. "Renewing these operating licences is a significant step toward achieving Duke Energy's aggressive carbon reduction goals, which cannot be achieved without nuclear power."

Duke Energy operates nuclear reactors at six sites in North and South Carolina: the three-unit Oconee plant, two-unit plants at Brunswick, Catawba and McGuire; and two single-unit plants at Robinson and Shearon Harris. Keeping its nuclear fleet operating is seen by Duke as key to achieving its carbon reduction goals of at least 50% by 2030 and net-zero by 2050 from electricity generation, and the company in 2019 said it would seek to renew the operating licences of all 11 nuclear units.

"A diverse, increasingly carbon-free energy mix is important for customers. And, nuclear energy is a proven part of that mix, having provided our Carolinas customers with clean, safe and reliable electricity for decades," Duke Energy Chief Nuclear Officer Kelvin Henderson said. "Our nuclear stations remain economic drivers for their communities, providing thousands of well-paying jobs, significant tax revenues, partnership opportunities and other benefits."

US reactors are initially licensed by the NRC to operate for up to 40 years - a period originally based on economic, rather than technology, limitations. An initial licence renewal extends those operating lives to 60 years. Subsequent licence renewal extends the period of operation from 60 to 80 years. To date, six reactors - Turkey Point units 3 and 4, Peach Bottom 2 and 3, and Surry 1 and 2 - have been approved for operation to 80 years. The NRC is currently reviewing applications for a further four units, at the Point Beach and North Anna sites.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News