Carolina Power & Light has announced plans to ask the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend for 20 years the operating licences for three of its nuclear plants.
CP&L will submit an application for HB Robinson 2 in South Carolina in the fourth quarter of 2002, a year ahead of schedule, and for Brunswick 1 and 2 in North Carolina in 2004.
Robinson, a 683MWe Westinghouse PWR began commercial operation in March 1971. Its current 40-year licence expires in 2010.
Brunswick 1 and 2 are General Electric BWRs. Unit 2, rated at 754MWe, began commercial operation in November 1975. Unit 1, rated at 767MWe, began commercial operation in March 1977. Their licences expire in 2014 and 2016.
CP&L also owns the Shearon Harris 1 plant in North Carolina, an 880MWe Westinghouse PWR that began commercial operation in the first quarter of 1987. Since its licence does not expire until 2026, CP&L has not yet announced plans to seek an extension, although the company says that it expects to do so eventually.
The utility says that nuclear plants supplied 46% of its electricity last year, stabilising rates and enabling its customers to pay less for electricity than they did 10 years ago, even though the cost of living has risen 25% during that time.
CP&L has not yet decided whether to seek a licence extension for the 850MWe PWR Crystal River 3 plant in Florida when CP&L’s planned merger with the current owner, Florida Progress, is completed.
To date, the NRC has approved licence extensions for five nuclear plants owned by two US utilities. They are Constellation Energy’s Calvert Cliffs 1 and 2 in Maryland and Duke Energy's Oconee 1, 2 and 3 in South Carolina.
In a last gasp attempt to undermine utilities nuclear plant relicensing plans, the National Whistleblower Centre asked the US Supreme Court on 13 September to overturn the NRC’s issuance of 20-year licence extensions for the Calvert Cliffs units. The group charges that the NRC unfairly restricted public participation when it adopted a licence extension rule. Both the NRC and a US appeals court have rejected the group’s request.