US-based Constellation has applied to the country's Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to renew the licence of its Clinton Clean Energy Centre in Illinois. The filing begins a comprehensive review by the NRC to renew the station’s licence for another 20 years with adequate market or policy support. The single unit 1,062 MWe boiling water reactor at Clinton began operation in 1987 and is currently licensed to operate until April of 2027. Constellation, formerly Exelon Generation, owns and operates 21 nuclear reactors and also has an operating interest in Salem NPP units 1&2.

“Our nation desperately needs more new, clean, firm megawatts to power our homes, businesses, and new technologies to improve our everyday lives. This facility has operated 24/7 during the most extreme summer and winter weather to hit the Midwest in a generation, and we are doing everything possible to ensure it has the opportunity to continue to operate for another 20 years,” said Constellation President & CEO Joe Dominguez. “Sustained investment in our nation’s nuclear power plants, which provide about half of all the clean energy on the grid and are the most reliable source of energy, is essential.”

The continued operation of Clinton has been enabled by state legislation enacted in 2016 recognising the unique environmental, economic and reliability benefits of nuclear energy. Enactment of the federal nuclear production tax credit in 2022 extended policy support until 2032. Renewing the NRC licence for Clinton will give Constellation the ability to keep the plant operating until 2047, although this will depend on future policy and market conditions.

According to NRC, licence renewal application must contain technical information and evaluations about the different types of plant ageing that might be encountered and how the licensee will manage or mitigate those effects. The NRC staff performs a safety review of the information provided in the application, requesting additional information from the applicant as necessary, and draws conclusions about whether the plant can be operated during the period of extended operation without undue risk to health and safety of the public. It is expected that the NRC staff will complete its review of the application within 30 months from receipt if a hearing is required or within 22 months from receipt if no hearing is required.

Image: Clinton nuclear power plant (courtesy of Constellation)