Exelon taking hard look at second license renewal for Peach Bottom station

Exelon (NYSE:EXC) might be the second nuclear operator in the United States to seek federal approval to potentially keep a nuclear plant running until it’s 80-years-old.

Dominion (NYSE:D) made news Nov. 6 when it announced that it plans to ask the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a second 20-year license renewal for its dual-unit Surry station in Virginia.

When contacted by GenerationHub later the same, Exelon officials confirmed that they might decide to make the same move for the dual-unit Peach Bottom nuclear station in Pennsylvania.

“Exelon is finalizing its analysis of second license renewal for Peach Bottom and expects to make an announcement on this initiative in 2016,” an Exelon spokesperson said in an email response.

The idea that some nuclear plants could, with proper maintenance, run for 80 years, has been discussed around NRC and nuclear circles for a number of years. Most domestic nuclear units in the nation has already either applied for, or received, a 20-year license that is tacked onto the end of their original 40-year license.

Dominion Generation CEO David Christian made the announcement in connection with a White House symposium on the future of nuclear energy in the United States.

The Surry nuclear plant is located in Surry County, Va. Its two pressurized water reactors (PWRs)– provide 1,676 net MW. Unit 1 began commercial service in 1972 and Unit 2 began commercial service in 1973.

Like all U.S. nuclear units, the Surry units originally were licensed to operate for 40 years. The units’ licenses were renewed for 20 additional years of operation on March 20, 2003, following a stringent review process authorized under federal law. The Surry nuclear units’ licenses currently expire in 2032 and 2033, but with NRC approval could operate to 2052 and 2053 with renewed licenses.

Christian noted at the White House nuclear summit that the licenses for the two Surry units are currently scheduled to expire a couple of years after full implementation of the EPA Clean Power Plan.

The Exelon Peach Bottom complex is located in York County, Pa. It includes two boiling water reactors (BWRs) that together can generate about 2,300 MW. Both units were commissioned in 1974.

Subsequent renewal applications, as NRC refers to them, will be reviewed under the same regulations (10 CFR Part 54) as the initial renewals. That means they will get similar scrutiny for both safety (focusing on how the plant operators manage the effects of aging on certain plant components) and environmental impacts. There will also be opportunities for public input and hearings, according to NRC Division of License Renewal Albert Wong said in a Nov. 6 blog post.

Plant operators applying for subsequent license renewal will need a detailed technical basis, along with associated research and “aging management programs,” to demonstrate how they will keep their plants operating safely during the additional 20 years, said NRC’s Wong.

“The NRC staff will give these applications the same thorough reviews we give initial renewals. We expect the reviews will take about two years, though the quality of the applications could affect the schedule,” Wong said in the blog.

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.