Exelon to seek extended operating licence for Peach Bottom

08 June 2016

US utility Exelon said it intends to apply for an additional 20-year extension to the operating licence for the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. If granted, the extension would see the two-unit plant complete 80 years of operating service.

Peach Bottom 460 (Exelon)
Peach Bottom (Image: Exelon)

Exelon said in the coming weeks it will notify the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) of its intent to submit a licence extension application for Peach Bottom in 2018.

The company noted, "The NRC's licence renewal process will take many years and will require a comprehensive review of the plant's robust design and multiple, redundant safety systems, as well as a public comment period." It said a decision on its application is expected by 2020 or 2021.

Peach Bottom units 2 and 3 both began operating in 1974. Unit 2 - an 1125 MWe boiling water reactor (BWR) - is licensed to operate until 2033 and unit 3 - an 1138 MWe BWR - until 2034. Whilst operated by Exelon, the plant is owned 50-50 by Exelon and Public Service Electric and Gas.

If approved, the extended operating licence will allow the Peach Bottom units to run until 2053 and 2054, "as long as they continue to meet the NRC's stringent requirements for safety and operational performance", Exelon said.

Exelon president and CEO Chris Crane said, "This application is great news for Peach Bottom workers, our neighbours and the state's economy." He added, "Pennsylvania will soon be crafting ambitious but attainable carbon reduction goals to meet the requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan. Exelon's nuclear stations - including Peach Bottom - can help the state meet those goals and continue powering the economy for decades to come."

Under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, the NRC is allowed to issue licences for nuclear power reactors to operate for up to 40 years. The original 40-year period had more to do with amortisation of capital than implying that reactors were designed for only that operating period. Regulations allow the NRC to extend licences for additional 20-year periods provided the reactor is deemed safe to continue operating. There is no restrictions on how many times a licence can be extended.

First licence renewal extending operation beyond the original 40 years was issued to the two-unit Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant in March 2000. Of the USA's 99 operating nuclear power reactors, the NRC has so far renewed 81 of their operating licences and is currently reviewing a further 12. Of those that have had their licences extended, 39 reactors have so far entered the period of extended operation between 40 and 60 years.

In November 2015, Dominion Virginia Power became the first US utility to notify the NRC of its intent to seek a second 20-year licence renewal for a nuclear power plant. It expects to submit a licence extension application in the first quarter of 2019 for the two-unit Surry plant in Virginia.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News