NRC Halts Pursuit Of 40-Year License Extensions

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in a Facebook feed that it was discontinuing its pursuit of a 40-year license renewal process that would fast track reactors into operations permits that would allow them to remain commercially viable up to 100 years.

Peach Bottom NPPThe Facebook posting said, "Our process for reviewing requests to extend reactor operating licenses uses 20-year renewal periods. Over the past few years, almost every operating US nuclear power plant has applied for and received 20-year extensions after meeting our rigorous safety standards. We've been considering whether to allow nuclear power plant owners to request 40-year renewals, and we held a public meeting on the topic earlier this year. After fully considering the options and public input, we've ended the 40-year renewal discussion, and we've also offered recommendations on enhancing renewal-related inspections and oversight."

In a brief memorandum, NRC Senior Technical Advisor for  Licensing Renewal Aging Managment Allen L. Hiser, Jr., spelled out the on-going processes beyond the recent decision. These included: (2) Consider an evaluation of possible changes to oversight and inspection activities related to licensing renewal and subsequent license renewal. (3) Consider an evaluation to identify ongoing research activities (related to concrete, cables, reactor vessel internals and reactor pressure vessels) that could be extended to greater exposure levels (e.g., higher fluence levels) to address the potential for reactor operations up to 100 years.

In addition: (4) Periodically query the industry to determine their interest and timing to pursue operation to 100 years, so that the staff can identify the need and timeframe to initiate the development of guidance documents which would support 100 years of plant operation. [And] (5) Consider an evaluation of impacts to plant risk from the combined effects of multiple aged components, and affirmation of the conclusions in NUREG-1412, “Foundation for the Adequacy of the Licensing Bases, A Supplement to the Statement of Considerations for the Rule on Nuclear Power Plant License Renewal (10 CFR Part 54),” should license renewal to 100 years of plant operation be contemplated in the future. 

With the option of 20-year licensing permits, there are currently six U.S. reactors permitted to operate until their 80th anniversary. With favorable circumstances, they would be eligible for another round of licensing in 2029, according to Nuclear Engineering International.

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