NRC issuing final environmental review for Braidwood license extensions

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will say in a Nov. 19 Federal Register notice that it is issuing a final plant-specific supplement to its “Generic Environmental Impact Statement for License Renewal of Nuclear Plants” (GEIS) regarding the renewal of Exelon Generating Co. LLC’s operating licenses for Braidwood Station Units 1 and 2 for an additional 20 years of operation.

A draft of the GEIS was noticed by the NRC in the Federal Register on March 25, 2015, and noticed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on March 27, 2015.

As discussed in Chapter 5 of the final supplemental GEIS, the NRC determined that the adverse environmental impacts of license renewal for Braidwood are not so great that preserving the option of license renewal for energy-planning decision makers would be unreasonable. This recommendation is based on: the analysis and findings in the GEIS; information provided in the environmental report and other documents submitted by Exelon; consultation with federal, state, local, and tribal agencies; the NRC staff’s independent environmental review; and consideration of public comments received during the scoping process and on the draft supplemental GEIS.

The existing licenses (NPF-72 and NPF-77) expire on Oct. 17, 2026, and Dec. 18, 2027. Braidwood is a two-unit, nuclear-powered steam-electric generating facility in Illinois. The nuclear reactor for each unit is a pressurized water reactor (PWR), producing a reactor core rated thermal power of 3,645 megawatts thermal.

As a result of a refurbishment evaluation, Exelon Generation did not identify the need to undertake any major refurbishment or replacement activities associated with license renewal to support the continued operation of Braidwood beyond the end of the existing operating license. Therefore, the NRC staff does not discuss refurbishment activities as part of the proposed action. 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 head replacement for both or either unit.

The NRC staff considered the construction of a new nuclear plant to be a reasonable alternative to license renewal. For example, nuclear generation currently provides 21% of electricity generation in the region of influence (ROI) around the plant (the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, and Wisconsin). Twelve nuclear power plants operate in the ROI; six plants have received renewed licenses and three additional plants have applied for renewed licenses from the NRC (including Braidwood).

In addition, there is an interest in new nuclear power plant development in the region; combined license (COL) applications have been filed for two new nuclear plants in the ROI.

  • In 2008, Union Electric submitted a COL application for Callaway Nuclear Power Plant Unit 2 in Callaway County, Missouri, on the existing Callaway site. However, that application has since been suspended.
  • An application was also filed in 2008 for Enrico Fermi Atomic Power Plant Unit 3 (Fermi Unit 3), in Monroe County, Michigan, on the existing Fermi site. The NRC staff published the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Fermi 3 in January 2013.
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.