Nuclear operators seek to extend life of reactors to 80 years
- The owners of nuclear facilities in Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia are considering requesting licensing extensions that would extend the life of generating plants to 80 years, according to the New York Times.
- Nuclear facilities were typically licensed for 40 years, and many have since been relicensed for an additional two decades. But some in the industry now believe the plants can be operated for even longer periods of time, though significant maintenance and monitoring would be required.
- Some observers caution that extending plant life is a dangerous proposition, as years of radiation can make metal brittle and some facilities are reaching the end of testing materials used to estimate a plant's safety.
The New York Times reports that seven nuclear facilities on the east coast are prime candidates for relicensing applications that would extent plant operations to 80 years—twice as long as originally authorized. According to the Times, those plants include two Pennsylvania reactors owned by Exelon; two Dominion reactors in Virginia; and three reactors owned by Duke in South Carolina.
Though most nuclear facilities were originally licensed for 40 years, the industry says that time was meant as a measure of economic life and not an operating timeline.
NRC staff in January said it had begun reviewing the regulatory framework and technical justification for operating nuclear facilities beyond 60 years, and said "staff believes the license renewal process and regulations are sound and can support subsequent license renewal."
Critics, however, warn that years of use can turn the metal in these facilities brittle, and testing "coupons" meant to estimate conditions of the plant are now in scant supply.
- The New York Times Power Plants Seek to Extend Life of Nuclear Reactors for Decades
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