US power company Constellation has filed a licence renewal application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for its Dresden Clean Energy Centre in Illinois. Dresden units 2&3 are 790 MWe (net) General Electric BWR-3 boiling water reactors, which began operation in 1970 and 1971. Dresden 1 operated from 1960 to 1978 and is now undergoing decommissioning.

The facility’s licence was first renewed by NRC in 2004.This authorised operation for unit 1 to December 2029 and for unit 3 to January 2031. The new filing initiates a comprehensive, multi-year review by NRC to renew the licence for another 20 years until 2051. This involves a multi-year regulatory review process including a review of safety issues and for environmental issues.

Constellation, formerly Exelon Generation, owns and operates 21 nuclear reactors at 14 NPPs in the US with a combined generating capacity of more than 19,000 MWe. These are: Braidwood, Byron, Calvert Cliffs, Clinton, Dresden, FitzPatrick, LaSalle, Limerick, Nine Mile Point, Peach Bottom, Quad Cities, R E Ginna, Salem and South Texas Project. It also has an operating interest in Salem NPP units 1&2.

The Dresden units had been scheduled for early permanent closure in November 2021. However, Illinois adopted policy reforms to support their continued operation. New legislation recognised the zero-carbon benefits of nuclear, and the plants received credits under Illinois state laws that avoided their early retirement In addition, the 1922 federal Inflation Reduction Act also supported continued operation of the US nuclear fleet for at least nine years.

Constellation President and CEO Joe Dominguez said: "Extending the operating licences of the nation's nuclear fleet for an additional 20 years will add more clean megawatts to the grid than all the renewables ever built in this country, and those nuclear plants will continue operating long after the wind and solar facilities under construction today are retired.”

Image: The Dresden nuclear power plant in Illinois (courtesy of Constellation)