Exelon seeks ‘extended’ operating license that could keep Peach Bottom open until age 80

If 40 is considered the new 30 for people in modern American society then, in the nuclear power industry, 80 might just become the new 60.

Exelon (NYSE:EXC) said June 7 that the company is seeking an additional 20-year operating license for Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which could effectively keep the existing reactors running until they are 80-years old.

Exelon President and CEO Chris Crane made the announcement in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania during an event in the Capitol Rotunda.

The two boiling water reactors (BWRs) at Peach Bottom each have a generating capacity of roughly 800 MW. Each started operation around 1974.

In the coming weeks, Exelon will notify the NRC of its intent to file the formal application in 2018, with a decision expected by 2020 or 2021. Peach Bottom’s two current operating licenses will expire in 2033 and 2034. If approved, the extended operating license will allow the plant to operate until 2053 and 2054, as long as it continues to meet the NRC’s stringent requirements for safety and operational performance.

Exelon becomes the second nuclear power operator in the United States to publicly announce plans for a second 20-year license renewal. Dominion (NYSE:D) said last November that it plans to seek a second 20-year life extension for its dual-unit Surry station in Virginia.

U.S. nuclear energy facilities are initially licensed to operate for 40 years and an NRC rule allows licensees to apply for extensions of up to 20 years after the initial 40-year term.

A license alone does not allow a nuclear station to run, Exelon noted in a news release. It is merely a period of time for which the plant is allowed to operate as long as it complies with NRC safety regulations. If any U.S. nuclear facility fails to run safely at any time during the licensed period, the NRC can shut it down.

The NRC’s license renewal process will take many years and will require a comprehensive review of the plant’s robust design and multiple, redundant safety systems, as well as a public comment period.

Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station is located on the west bank of the Conowingo Pond (Susquehanna River) in York County, Pennsylvania.

“This application is great news for Peach Bottom workers, our neighbors and the state’s economy,” said Crane. “Pennsylvania will soon be crafting ambitious but attainable carbon reduction goals to meet the requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. Exelon’s nuclear stations — including Peach Bottom — can help the state meet those goals and continue powering the economy for decades to come.”

Peach Bottom employs more than 800 full-time workers who live in communities surrounding the station and who support local businesses. Annual refueling outages bring more than 2,500 additional workers to the plant, Exelon said.

The announcement should also bring some badly-needed good news for nuclear officials at Exelon. Exelon recently announced plans to retire its Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear plant in Illinois.

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.