Exelon gets 20-year license renewal for Byron units

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said Nov. 19 that it has renewed the operating licenses of Units 1 and 2 of the Exelon (NYSE:EXC) Byron nuclear power plant in Byron, Ill., for an additional 20 years.

The Byron station is located about 17 miles southwest of Rockford, Ill. It has two pressurized water reactors (PWRs). The renewed licenses authorize Unit 1 to operate through Oct. 31, 2044, and Unit 2 through Nov. 6, 2046.

The Byron station generates nearly 2,300 MW of electricity, enough for more than two million homes. Over the last 10 years, Byron has operated at 93.8% of capacity, which is above the industry average of 91%.

“Nuclear energy is an essential part of the energy mix in Illinois and is needed for the state to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power plan to reduce carbon emissions,” said Byron Station Site Vice President Mark Kanavos. “The NRC’s approval of the license renewal demonstrates that Byron Station has met all the criteria to provide around-the-clock reliable, carbon-free energy until at least the middle of the century,” Kanavos said.

Exelon Generation applied to renew the licenses on May 29, 2013.

The NRC staff’s review of the application proceeded on two tracks. A safety evaluation report with open items was issued Oct. 30, 2014, and a final report issued July 6, 2015. A supplemental environmental impact statement was issued July 15, 2015.

These documents, as well as other information about the Byron license renewal, are available on the NRC website. The NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards also reviewed the staff’s work.

Renewal of Byron’s operating licenses brings to 80 the number of commercial nuclear power reactors with renewed licenses. Applications for an additional 14 renewals are currently under review.

While license renewal provides Byron the opportunity to operate for decades to come, there is no guarantee, Exelon said in its statement. “The facility continues to face economic challenges due to distorted markets that don’t properly recognize and value all carbon-free energy sources equally,” according to Exelon.

Exelon announced in September that it will defer any decisions about the future operations of Byron for one year.

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 wayneb@pennwell.com.