- Exelon's Peach Bottom plant became the second nuclear power reactor in the U.S. to get permission to operate out to 80 years, after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved another 20-year extension on Friday.
- Last December, Florida Power & Light's Turkey Point units 3 and 4 got the first such approval as utilities work to retain a major source of carbon-free generation as long as possible.
- Dominion has applied for a similar license extension for its Surry nuclear plant and plans to request for at least two more, while Duke plans to do the same for all 11 of its nuclear plants, Bloomberg reported last month.
Peach Bottom Unit 2 in York County, Pennsylvania, is now licensed to operate through August 2053 and Unit 3 through July 2054. The approvals come as more and more states move to adopt aggressive clean energy goals and the nuclear industry looks to advance a new generation of reactors.
But the economics of the current generation of U.S. reactors remains challenging, especially for new plants, and the industry and a number of states have adopted programs to recognize the zero emission attributes of nuclear.
In announcing the license approval, Exelon noted it has recently invested in new equipment and technologies to increase Peach Bottom's generation capacity by about 12%.
"Many of Peach Bottom's major components, including the station's high and low-pressure turbines, steam dryers, main generators and main power transformers have been replaced or upgraded," Exelon said in a statement.
While Exelon Nuclear's Chief Nuclear Officer Bryan Hanson called the license extension, "good news for the environment, our employees and the community," he noted that "nuclear plants must remain financially viable to continue to operate. It's critical that we continue to pursue policy reforms that value the environmental, economic and reliability benefits that zero-carbon nuclear energy provides."
But FERC's move in December to effectively raise the price floor for subsidized resources attempting to bid into the PJM wholesale capacity market complicates state efforts to support nuclear plants in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
A variety of stakeholders have petitioned FERC to reconsider its decision.
The NRC's decision to move forward with Peach Bottom's license extension is also being challenged.
The Commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board ended the adjudicatory proceeding related to Exelon's license renewal application in June 2019, concluding "that no contested matters remained before it for resolution," NRC said in a March 6 statement.
Environmental advocates appealed that conclusion to the Commission.
Nevertheless, "the NRC staff has determined that issuing the subsequent renewed licenses before the Commission acts on the appeals would not foreclose or prejudice any action by the Commission," the Commission's March 6 statement continued.
In November 2018, citing "scientific knowledge gaps in the management of reactor safety issues caused by aging, and acknowledged by the nuclear industry," NGO Beyond Nuclear challenged Exelon's July 2018 subsequent license renewal application for Peach Bottom.