NRC grants Duane Arnold emergency planning exemptions

NextEra Energy will be allowed to revise the emergency preparedness plan for its Duane Arnold nuclear power plant to reflect the plant’s decommissioning status, having been granted exemptions from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s emergency preparedness and planning requirements, the agency announced on February 17. A single-unit boiling water reactor plant located in Palo, Iowa, approximately eight miles northwest of Cedar Rapids, Duane Arnold was shut down in August 2020 after a derecho damaged the plant’s cooling towers.

The NRC regularly issues exemptions from its licensing requirements to nuclear power plants that are transitioning to decommissioning, where the risk of an off-site radiological release is significantly lower, and the types of possible accidents significantly fewer, than at an operating reactor.

Once NextEra implements the exemptions, state and local governments can rely on comprehensive emergency management (“all hazard”) planning for off-site emergency response should an event occur at Duane Arnold. As a result, there will not be a 10-mile emergency planning zone as currently identified in Duane Arnold’s license. The plant will maintain an on-site emergency plan and response capabilities, including the continued notification of state government officials in the event of an emergency declaration.

Windstorms force early closure of Duane Arnold

High winds that caused damage across central Iowa last week have prompted NextEra Energy to close the Duane Arnold nuclear power plant about two months earlier than originally planned. The plant’s 622-MWe boiling water reactor has been off line since August 10, when a line of intense, fast-moving windstorms, called derechos, caused a loss of off-site power and damaged the plant’s cooling towers. NextEra had planned to permanently shut down Duane Arnold, Iowa’s only nuclear power reactor, on October 30.