The Nebraska Public Power District will pursue an extended power uprate at the Cooper nuclear plant and recently signed $44.7 million in contracts with GE-Hitachi to that end.

On Friday the NPPD's board voted to seek NRC approval for a 146 megawatt, 18 percent uprate at the plant, mostly by making full use of a new high-pressure turbine it already ordered in May.

“Regardless of a decision to move forward or not with an extended power uprate, the turbine would still have to be replaced,” NPPD CEO Pat Pope said in a release.

The project's cost is estimated at $243 million, including $60 million in improvements already planned as part of the reactor's relicensing in 2010. New equipment will be installed during refueling outages in 2014, 2016 and 2018, with the new high pressure turbine installed in 2016.

To gather data necessary for an uprate application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the NPPD board also approved a $30.5 million contract with GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy Americas for an analysis of the plant's steam supply. The power district will spend a further $14.2 million on a power range neutron monitoring system.

The Cooper plant is located in Brownsville, Neb., according to the NRC. First licensed in 1974, it uses a single GE boiling water reactor to generate about 800 megawatts.