Westinghouse fuel plant okayed for four more decades of operation

September 13, 2022, 3:01PMNuclear News
An aerial view of Westinghouse’s Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility in Hopkins, S.C. (Photo: Westinghouse)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission yesterday announced that it has issued a renewed license for Westinghouse Electric Company’s Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF), authorizing operations at the plant for another 40 years—through September 12, 2062.

Located in Hopkins, S.C., the CFFF manufactures fuel rods for use in commercial nuclear reactors. According to Westinghouse, 10 percent of the nation’s electricity comes from the fuel manufactured at the facility.

The CFFF’s license, first issued in 1969 by the Atomic Energy Commission, was last renewed by the NRC in 2007. This past July, the agency issued its final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed renewal, recommending a 40-year extension of operations.

Like the NRC’s draft EIS released in August 2021, the final EIS concluded that 40 additional years for the CFFF would result in “small” impacts on all resources, except for groundwater and waste generation during decommissioning, which would have “small to moderate” impacts. Agency staff pondered a 20-year renewal period in the EIS, as well, concluding that impacts would be similar to those of a 40-year renewal but over a shorter time frame.

The NRC also announced yesterday the publication of its final safety evaluation report for the CFFF. According to the agency, “The staff did not identify safety risks or new processes or technologies that might introduce new safety concerns.”

What they’re saying: “We are very pleased with the NRC’s renewal of our license for an additional 40 years,” said Patrick Fragman, Westinghouse president and chief executive officer. “The Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility plays a vital role in fueling the global operating nuclear fleet while also assuring United States energy independence. Looking to the future, we are proud to continue generating safe, clean, and sustainable energy in South Carolina as a flagship facility in our global nuclear fuel portfolio.”

In case you missed it: Late last year, Westinghouse committed to a $131 million investment in the CFFF over the next five years. The project, announced in December by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster’s office, includes upgrades to equipment and procedures, as well as enhancements to the CFFF’s pollution prevention systems and controls. The investment will expand automation and digitalization at the facility, improving inspection capabilities and product quality, according to the governor’s office. Westinghouse expects to complete the project by January 2026.

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