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How the nuclear industry will try to avoid decommissioning costs

They want to renew reactor licenses.  It’s not just for their immediate survival –   it’s also to take attention away from the astronomic costs of decommissioning nuclear reactors, and to avoid those cosrs during their lifetime (the lifetime of the companies, not the reactors).

Nuclear has another friend in Biden, but changes at the NRC could mean more scrutiny ahead, Utility Dive . 1 Feb 21,  Matthew Bandyk ”’……………Subsequent license renewal

A top priority of the nuclear industry continues to be extending the lifetime of existing nuclear plants, a necessary step to maintain nuclear power’s position as a major source of electricity generation. Many reactors have retired for economic reasons, with several more expected to close in 2021, and the construction of new reactors to replace them remains a herculean task.

Over the past several years the NRC started accepting applications from nuclear plants to remain open for 80 years. The commission is also considering whether it should begin developing a framework for licensing plants to run for up to 100 years, holding the first public meeting on that topic on Jan. 21.

No U.S. nuclear plant had ever been licensed to operate beyond 60 years until Florida Power & Light’s Turkey Point reactors received a second license renewal from the NRC at the end of 2019, allowing operation for 80 years. Exelon’s Peach Bottom plant in Pennsylvania got permission to operate up to 80 years a few months later. These approvals came despite objections from environmental groups that the NRC was failing to do its duty by not requiring these plants to undergo more extensive reviews of the potential environmental and safety risks from 80 years of operation.

The NRC rejected a challenge to the Turkey Point relicensing process filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Friends of the Earth. Baran dissented, saying the commission should evaluate the groups’ position that Turkey Point cannot rely on a review of the environmental impacts of relicensing the reactors that was from 2013 and not specific to the site, and that the plant must instead perform a new review.

NRDC and Friends of the Earth have appealed the NRC’s decision on Turkey Point, and that challenge is currently pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The nuclear watchdog group Beyond Nuclear brought a similar challenge against the Peach Bottom relicensing, and Baran once again dissented when the NRC released its order in November 2020 rejecting the group’s claim, but this time, he was joined by Hanson, who had been appointed to the commission after the Turkey Point decision.

The dissent of Baran and Hanson “conveys that a Democratically-led commission is at least more open to taking the hard looks at these license extensions that [the National Environmental Policy Act] demands,” said Paul Gunter, reactor oversight project director at Beyond Nuclear. A “hard look” would mean performing new environmental assessments of issues related to the aging of a nuclear plant, such as whether components of the plant have been embrittled by exposure to radiation over the course of decades, according to Gunter.

Dominion’s North Anna and Surry reactors in Virginia are next in line to potentially receive 80-year licenses. In addition, last November, NextEra Energy applied for license extensions up to 80 years for both of its reactors at the Point Beach plant in Wisconsin, and Duke Energy has told the NRC it intends to apply for similar extensions for the three reactors at its Oconee plant in South Carolina later this year. ……………..

February 2, 2021 - Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA

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