US power utility Duke Energy announced on 19 September that it will seek to renew the operating licences of the 11 reactors it operates at six nuclear stations in the Carolinas for an additional 20 years.

US nuclear facilities are initially licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to operate for 40 years based on economic considerations, not technology limitations, Duke said. Regulations allow nuclear licencees to renew their licences for up to 20 years at a time.

All Duke Energy-operated nuclear units have received a licence renewal for an additional 20 years. Renewal for a second 20 years requires a comprehensive analysis and evaluation to ensure the units can safely operate for the extended operation period. The process begins with an acceptance review of the application once received, with a goal to complete the subsequent licence renewal application review within 18 months of docketing.

The first Duke Energy reactors will approach the end of their current operating licences in the early 2030s. Duke said rigorous, ongoing preventive maintenance programmes across the nuclear fleet and technology upgrades and investments at all stations have contributed to continuing strong operating performance.

The company expects to submit the licence renewal application for Oconee in South Carolina in 2021, followed by its other nuclear stations. Oconee is the company’s largest nuclear plant, with three generating units producing 2554MWe. Other plants in South Carolina include the jointly-owned Catawba NPP (2310MWe) and Robinson NPP (741MWe). In North Carolina, Duke Energy's include Brunswick (1870MWe), Shearon Harris (964MWe), and McGuire (2316MWe). All units are pressurised water reactors except Brunswick, which is a boiling water reactor.