US utility Exelon Corporation is to extend the life of the two-unit Peach Bottom NPP in Pennsylvania for 20 years, the company said in a statement. Exelon said it will notify the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in the coming weeks of its intent to file the formal application in 2018, with a decision expected by 2020 or 2021. The current operating licences for Peach Bottom-2 and -3 will expire in 2033 and 2034. If the extensions are approved, the units will remain in commercial operation until 2053 and 2054, giving them 80 years of operating service. The plant is owned 50-50 by Exelon and Public Service Electric and Gas and operated by Exelon.
The company noted, "The NRC's licence 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." It said a decision on its application is expected by 2020 or 2021.
Peach Bottom units 2 and 3 both began operating in 1974. Unit 2 (a 1,125MWe boiling water reactor - BWR) is licensed to operate until 2033 and unit 3 (a 1,138 MWe BWR) until 2034. If approved, the extended operating licence will allow the Peach Bottom units to run until 2053 and 2054, "as long as they continue to meet the NRC's stringent requirements for safety and operational performance", Exelon said.
Under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, NRC is allowed to issue licences for nuclear power reactors to operate for up to 40 years. The original 40-year period had more to do with amortisation of capital than implying that reactors were designed for only that operating period. Regulations allow the NRC to extend licences for additional 20-year periods provided the reactor is deemed safe to continue operating. There are no restrictions on how many times a licence can be extended. NRC has so far renewed operating licences for 81 of the USA's 99 reactors, and is reviewing a further 12.