Duke Energy on 21 June filed an application with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to renew Oconee Nuclear Station’s operating licences for an additional 20 years for all three pressurised water reactor units. This formal step begins a public process that generally takes 18 months and includes public comment periods.
Oconee, in South Caroline, is Duke Energy’s largest nuclear station, with three units that produce more than 2,500MWe. Oconee’s operating licences remain current through to the early 2030s; the subsequent, or second, licence renewal would extend them to 2053 and 2054.
“Oconee Nuclear Station has provided safe, reliable, carbon-free energy to customers and our communities for nearly 50 years,” said Oconee Nuclear Station Site Vice President Steve Snider. “Renewing these operating licences is a significant step toward achieving Duke Energy’s aggressive carbon reduction goals, which cannot be achieved without nuclear power.”
This is the first Duke Energy nuclear station application submitted to the NRC for subsequent licence renewal (SLR); the company announced in 2019 it will seek to renew the operating licences of the 11 reactors it operates at six sites for an additional 20 years. Duke's nuclear sites and the expiration date of their current licences, which can take a decade or more to renew, are as follows:
- Brunswick, North Carolina (NC), licences expire in 2034 and 2036
- Catawba (jointly owned with three other entities), South Carolina (SC), licences expire in 2040 and 2043
- Harris, NC, licence expires in 2046
- McGuire, NC, licences expire in 2041 and 2043
- Oconee, SC, licences expire in 2033 and 2034
- Robinson, SC, licence expires in 2030
NRC said staff are reviewing the application to determine if it has sufficient information to complete the agency’s extensive safety and environmental reviews. “If the application is determined to be complete, the staff will docket it and publish a notice of opportunity to request an adjudicatory hearing before the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board.”
The NRC has so far approved SLRs clearing six reactors to operate for 60 to 80 years. In December of 2019, Florida Power & Light’s (FPL’s) Turkey Point 3 and 4 were the first units to receive SLRs, allowing them to operate until 2052 and 2053. In March 2020, Exelon’s Peach Bottom NPP was the second site to receive SLRs for its two units, now licensed to operate until 2053 and 2054. And in May 2021, the NRC approved renewals for Dominion Energy’s Surry NPP units 1 and 2 in Virginia for operation until 2052 and 2053. Apart from Oconee’s three units, four others are being reviewed by NRC for SLRs: NextEra Energy’s Point Beach 1 and 2, and Dominion’s North Anna 1 and 2. FPL has said it will seek SLRs for St Lucie 1 and 2.