NRC making progress on license renewal requests

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff is making progress on several applications for 20-year license renewals filed by nuclear plant operators.

That’s one of the highlights of an Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) briefing for the NRC’s five-member commission scheduled July 11.

The extensive slide presentation prepared for the meeting indicates that NRC staff is engaged in either interim or final reviews for Entergy’s (NYSE:ETR) Grand Gulf plant, STP Nuclear Operating’s South Texas Project, Ameren’s (NYSE:AEE) Callaway plant and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Sequoyah plant.

NRC staff is also doing reviews for the PG&E (NYSE:PCG) Diablo Canyon station (now the lone operating nuclear plant in California); NextEra Energy’s (NYSE:NEE) Seabrook and FirstEnergy’s (NYSE:FE) Davis Besse plant.

Here are some status updates based on a variety of sources, including GenerationHub’s prior reporting and recent communication with the utilities:

** The license for Entergy’s Grand Gulf plant in Mississippi is currently set to expire in November 2024. The company filed for a license extension in October 2011.

** STP filed an application with NRC in the fall of 2010 to seek renewal of the two South Texas Project units for an additional 20 years. The existing units are now licensed to run until 2027 and 2028 respectively. STP is owned by a venture that includes NRG Energy (NYSE:NRG).

** Ameren’s Callaway plant filed its license renewal application in December 2011. The Missouri nuclear plant’s current license extends until October 2024.

** In January of this year TVA filed an application to renew its licenses to operate the two reactors at the Sequoyah plant in East Tennessee for an additional 20 years. The current licenses expire in September 2020, for Unit 1 and September 2021, for Unit 2.

** Current licenses for Pacific Gas & Electric’s Diablo Canyon units expire in 2024 and 2025. In April 2009 the company filed a 20-year license renewal request with NRC but then voluntarily suspended it follow the 2011 Fukushima accident in Japan.

** In May, NRC said it was issuing a supplemental draft environmental impact statement on the proposed license renewal for NextEra’s Seabrook plant in New Hampshire. The company had applied to the NRC in May 2010 to renew the license for Seabrook. The existing Seabrook license is set to expire in March 2030. Since filing for license renewal, the company and NRC have agreed no action will be taken on the extension until concrete degradation concerns at the plant are addressed.

** FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse license is currently scheduled to expire in April 2017. FE submitted its license renewal request to NRC in August 2010.

‘Waste confidence’ delays final decisions

NRC generally tries to get these applications decided within 22 months, or 30 months if an Atomic Safety Licensing Board hearing is held. “Yes, some [such as Indian Point] have become quite protracted because of additional adjudications and prolonged hearings,” an NRC spokesperson said in a July 10 email.

Eventual issuance of these and other license renewals could also be affected by NRC’s compliance with the so-called “waste confidence” court ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

“Licensing reviews are continuing up to the point of a final decision on whether to renew the license; those final decisions are on hold until the staff completes the waste confidence rule and Generic Environmental Impact Statement, expected by September 2014,” the NRC spokesperson said.

So far, no license renewal request has been flat-out rejected by NRC although some have been suspended or delayed at the utility’s request for various reasons.

The report also says that NRC staff members are involved in either ongoing or future reviews for extended power uprates at several nuclear plants.

The report indicates NRC staff members are monitoring TVA’s effort to complete the never-finished Watts Bar 2 nuclear reactor. Other major NRC staff reactor projects include a spent fuel study and long-term efforts to address the risk of a Fukushima-style nuclear disaster in the United States.

The Office of New Reactors has begun to develop design review standards for small modular reactors. This starts with the mPower design that a Babcock & Wilcox affiliate plans to install at TVA’s Clinch River site in Tennessee by 2022.



About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at