The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is hoping to expedite hearings on Duke Energy’s request to extend for 20 years the operating licences of three units at its Oconee nuclear station in South Carolina.

In October, the NRC announced a schedule for evaluating the site- specific environmental impacts of renewing the Oconee licenses, with a goal of issuing a final environmental statement in February 2000.

On 19 October, the NRC held a hearing in Clemson, South Carolina, the first in a series of planned hearings at which public views will be gathered regarding the environmental issues that should be considered.

Duke Energy applied for the licence renewal permits in July. In its filing to the NRC, Duke said that replacing Oconee’s 2500 MWe of generating capacity with coal-fired power plants would result in annual emissions of 13000 tons of SO2; 13000 tons of NOx; 1800 tons of particulate matter; 1800 tons of CO; and 18 million tons of CO2.

The current licence for Oconee 1 expires on 6 February 2013; for Oconee 2 on 6 October 2013; and for Oconee 3 on 19 July 2014.