NRC discontinues consideration of 40-year license renewals

July 6, 2021, 9:34AMNuclear News
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission headquarters (photo: U.S. NRC)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has halted efforts to consider allowing U.S. nuclear power plant owners to request 40-year license renewals for their facilities, the agency announced on Facebook and Twitter on July 2. Currently, the maximum potential operating lifespan for a plant is 80 years: 40 years with the original license, 20 more with an initial license renewal, and another 20 with a second renewal.

The social media statement linked to a June 22 NRC memo that stated, “The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has completed an activity to assess the feasibility of extending the time period for license renewal of nuclear power plants from the current 20-year maximum to a maximum period of 40 years, and to identify options to implement this change. With more than 90 percent of the operating reactors possessing renewed licenses for operation to 60 years, this activity included consideration of the technical issues that would be associated with plant operation to 100 years.”

Consider this: The staff produced five specific recommendations:

■ Discontinue the activity to consider regulatory and other changes to enable license renewal for 40 years. (The memo noted that while implementation of a 40-year renewal could have benefits to both applicants and the NRC, this recommendation was based on the lack of interest from the industry and the strong adverse public response received at public meetings.)

■ Consider an evaluation of possible changes to oversight and inspection activities related to license renewal and subsequent license renewal.

■ Consider an evaluation to identify on-going research activities (related to concrete, cables, reactor vessel internals, and reactor pressure vessels) that could be extended to greater exposure levels to address the potential for reactor operations up to 100 years.

■ Periodically query the industry to determine its interest and timing to pursue operation to 100 years, so that the staff can identify the need, and time frame, to initiate the development of guidance documents that would support 100 years of plant operation.

■ Consider an evaluation of impacts on plant risk from the combined effects of multiple aged components.

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