Plenty of uprate capacity to come

16 June 2010

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved four power uprates over the last year - and is reviewing another 16 which, if approved, would add over 1000 MWe to the country's nuclear generating capacity.

In a newly released update on the power uprate program status dated 20 May 2010, the US regulator notes that in addition to the four power uprates approved since 20 May 2009, totalling some 168 MWt (equivalent to 56 MWe), power uprates currently under review could add a further 3436 MWt - about 1145 MWe - to the nation's nuclear generation capacity. To put that into perspective, a new-build Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) would typically have a capacity of 3926 MWt, while a Westinghouse APR-1000 pressurised water reactor would have a thermal capacity of 3400 MWt. (MWt measures the thermal capacity of a reactor, while MWe is the unit used for electrical capacity). In total, the NRC has approved 129 uprates since 1977, representing some 5726 MWe - the equivalent of at least 5 new nuclear reactors.

The four uprates approved over the year - at Calvert Cliffs 1 and 2 and North Anna 1 and 2 - were all so-called measurement uncertainty recapture (MUR) uprates, typically achieved by implementing enhanced techniques for calculating reactor power and resulting in power level increases of less than 2%. Of the 16 outstanding power uprate applications, 8 are also for MURs, but 8 are for extended power uprates (EPUs), requiring significant modifications to major plant equipment but resulting in capacity increases as high as 20%. The regulator anticipates completing the review for at least 11 of the applications – EPUs at Point Beach 1 and 2 and Nine Mile Point plus MURs at Prairie Island 1 and 2, Surry 1 and 2, LaSalle 1 and 2 and Limerick 1 and 2 – by the end of the year.

Over the next five years the NRC estimates that it will receive a total of 39 new power uprate applications totalling 7258 MWt (2419 MWe). Earlier this year, Shaw Group chairman Jim Bernhard estimated the value of the US reactor uprate market at around $25 billion.

Researched and written

by World Nuclear News