NRC seeks input on draft enviro review for Byron license extensions

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing for public comment a draft plant-specific supplement to the Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) for License Renewal of Nuclear Plants covering an additional 20 years of operation for Byron Station Units 1 and 2.

Byron is located in Byron, Illinois. Possible alternatives to the proposed action (license renewal) include no action and reasonable alternative energy sources. The NRC staff plans to hold two public meetings during the public comment period to present an overview of the draft plant-specific supplement to the GEIS and to accept public comments on the document. Comments are due by Feb. 20, 2015, said the commission in a notice to be published in the Jan. 2, 2015, Federal Register.

The NRC’s preliminary recommendation is that the adverse environmental impacts of license renewal for Byron are not great enough to deny the option of license renewal for energy-planning decisionmakers.

Byron is a two-unit facility that began commercial operation in February 1985 (Unit 1) and January 1987 (Unit 2). The nuclear reactor for each unit is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor (PWR), producing 2,370 megawatts electric (MWe).

By letter dated May 29, 2013, Exelon Generation Co. LLC submitted an application to the NRC to issue renewed operating licenses for Byron Units 1 and 2 for an additional 20-year period. The existing licenses (NPF-37 and NPF-66) expire on Oct. 31, 2024, and Nov. 6, 2026, respectively.

Said the draft about plans by Exelon Generation for any major system upgrades related to this relicensing: “Exelon did not identify the need to undertake any major refurbishment or replacement activities associated with license renewal to support the continued operation of Byron beyond the end of the existing operating license.” However, Exelon identified two hypothetical refurbishment activities that may occur during the period of continued operation:

  • steam generator replacement for Unit 2; and
  • reactor pressure vessel (RPV) head replacement for both or either unit.

“Exelon’s experience in replacing the steam generators for Unit 1 allowed for a determination that analyses of environmental impacts associated with the hypothetical steam generator replacement would bound the hypothetical RPV head replacement,” the NRC noted. “Specifically, the replacement of the steam generators would require more time (90 days vs. 7 days) and more people (500 vs. 340) than the RPV head replacement. The remaining factors (personnel access, parking and potable water supply, sufficient disturbed land to support onsite laydown facilities, and new storage facility) would be similar for both activities.”

Said the GEIS about replacement power if Byron is shut: “If renewed licenses were not issued, replacement power for Byron would be required in northern Illinois. Electricity could be replaced by generation sources from a variety of locations. Electricity could be transported from within the PJM Interconnection; however, the PJM Interconnection in Illinois is geographically distant from the rest of the PJM region. It is also possible that electricity within MISO could be purchased by PJM, and efforts are currently being made to increase coordination and deliverability between the regional transmission organizations. In addition, the State of Illinois has a renewable portfolio standard that includes a geographic eligibility requirement stipulating that eligible renewable resources must be procured from facilities located in Illinois or states that adjoin Illinois (Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, and Missouri). Renewable resources can be obtained only from other regions of the country if they are not available in Illinois or in adjoining states.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.