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NRC considers nuclear reactors running for 100 years (saves the big costs of decommissioning)

How long can a nuclear plant run? Regulators consider 100 years,   Utility Dive , 29 Mar 21,


This fall, This fall, Exelon plans to retire the Dresden nuclear power plant in Illinois after more than 51 years in operation, one of the longest life spans any commercial nuclear power reactor has ever achieved. The only older operating power reactor in the country, unit 1 at Exelon’s Nine Mile Point plant, came online in 1969, a few months before the older of the two units at Dresden. 

Now, nuclear regulators, industry groups and power plant owners have begun talking about the possibility of doubling these record run times and operating some U.S. nuclear plants for up to 100 years. 

The discussions cut quickly followed the 2019 and 2020 Nuclear Regulatory Commission approvals of the first licenses for reactors in Florida and Pennsylvania to operate for 80 years, which would themselves be unprecedented milestones. According to industry experts, with state governments, utilities and corporations setting emissions reductions targets 20 to 30 years out into in the future, the nuclear industry is experiencing pressure to tackle the technical challenges around long life extensions sooner rather than later……..

Replacing nuclear plants before their licenses expire may not be on the table at all, due to high costs and competitive pressures from other power sources………

From 80 to 100?

The NRC has been tackling technical questions and research around the long-term aging of nuclear reactor components as part of its review of requests from plants to operate for 80 years………..

Four reactors — two at NextEra Energy subsidiary Florida Power & Light’s Turkey Point plant and two at Exelon’s Peach Bottom plant in Pennsylvania — have already received approval from the NRC to operate for up to 80 years, while six more — four at Dominion Energy’s North Anna and Surry plants in Virginia and two at NextEra Energy’s Point Beach plant in Wisconsin — have asked for license extensions to 80 years.

But all of these nuclear plants, like Oconee, would have to retire in the early 2050s if the NRC does not allow operation beyond 80 years. ……….

Unknown unknowns”

If the NRC decides to push forward with developing guidance for 100-year licenses, some of the most complicated questions that will have to be tackled are around how nuclear plants can safely operate at advanced ages……..

[Some]  are skeptical, about how certain regulators can be about safety if they are looking so far out into the future. “Would you get on a 747 that is 100 years old?” asked Allison Macfarlane, who served as chairman of the NRC from 2012 to 2014 and now directs the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia. Her concerns are with the number of “unknown unknowns” — safety issues that regulators and plant operators are not even aware could pose problems — that may surface as parts of a nuclear plant are exposed to radiation at lengths of time never before observed. For example, a nuclear plant typically has miles of buried cables and piping, and inspecting them can be difficult due to the costs of digging to access them, Macfarlane said…….

March 30, 2021 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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