NRC denies challenge to Three Mile Island’s emergency plan

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has rejected a petition by Three Mile Island Alert (TMIA) challenging Exelon’s request to revise its site emergency plan for the closed Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. Exelon submitted a request to the NRC to amend its TMI-1 license to reflect the reduced risks of the defueled reactor, which was permanently shut down in September 2019.

In an order issued on October 8, the NRC commissioners upheld a decision by an NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board denying TMIA’s petition to intervene and request a hearing in the license amendment request. That decision, issued on January 23, 2020, found that the antinuclear group had not established standing in the case and that its contentions were inadmissible.

NRC amends fees for FY 2020

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is amending its regulations for the licensing, inspection, special projects, and annual fees that it will charge applicants and licensees for fiscal year 2020. The FY 2020 final fee rule, published in the June 19 Federal Register, includes fees required by law to recover approximately 90 percent of the NRC’s annual budget authority. A proposed rule was published for public comment on February 18 of this year, with a March 19 due date. The final rule goes into effect on August 18.

Metropolis Works receives 40-year license renewal

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on March 24 relicensed the only uranium conversion plant in the United States, Honeywell International’s Metropolis Works.

Metropolis Works can now operate until March 24, 2060, potentially logging operations for over a century. Built in 1958 to produce uranium hexafluoride (UF6) for the U.S. government, Metropolis Works began selling UF6 on the commercial market in 1968.

Nuclear Plant Construction Delay and Cost 3

Reactor vessel delivered to Calvert Cliffs; from brochure in Will Davis collection.

The year 1971 saw a continuation of the general trend of rising capital costs for all types of power plants, described by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in its publication for 1971 as having "risen rather rapidly."  According to the AEC, the aggregate major causes for the increases in costs specific to nuclear electric power plants were as follows, with author's analysis accompanying each:

Research Reactor License Renewal Challenges

The process for renewing research and test reactor (RTR) licenses in the United States has been subject to lengthy delays and periodic backlogs since the early 1980s. Despite the apparent time invested in improvement efforts, the process does not seem to be getting better very fast. The difficulty, schedule uncertainty, and cost of renewing research reactor licenses adds to the burden of owning and operating research reactors. The scale of the challenge may contribute to regrettable institutional decisions that maintaining operable facilities is not worth the trouble.

Nuclear Power Uprates: What, how, when, and will there be more?

Calvert Cliffs Plant; two unit nuclear generating station.  Baltimore Gas and Electric Company brochure, October 1980.

Calvert Cliffs Plant; two unit nuclear generating station. Baltimore Gas and Electric Company brochure, October 1980.

I received an email this morning (in the midst of my daily avalanche of promotional emails) with a link to a brief story about uprating of nuclear plants worldwide (in other words, increasing the power output of an already-built plant)-what had been done, how many were planned, and so forth. I wondered to myself just how many nuclear plants in the United States had been uprated, and when they started-and given the recent hullabaloo over the recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency CO2 emission policy, it seems like (in addition to discussing small modular reactors) we might also want to toss the uprate card back on the table. Instead of flat or only slightly rising demand for electricity, we may face a steady lowering of generating capacity as plants that are high CO2 emitters (and thus violators) get shut down. Sure, renewables will play a part, and so will increased efficiency, but having more power is better than having less, or too little. I found no quick and easy reference for the kind of analysis I wanted, so I took a little time and did it myself.

Kewaunee: What does the future hold?

kewaunee 200x92Shortly after 11 a.m. on Tuesday, May 7, 2013, the operators at Dominion Resources' Kewaunee nuclear power plant opened its output breaker, disconnecting the turbine generator from the grid for the last time after just under 40 years of operation. Shutdown of the reactor followed, and the plant entered what for some is an uncertain (even if pre-ordained) future-a long-term storage period, followed eventually after many years by the complete dismantling and removal of the plant.

Update on Nuclear Waste Confidence Court Ruling

As I discussed in a June 20 ANS Nuclear Cafe post, a federal appeals court rejected the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's new nuclear Waste Confidence rule, and ordered the NRC to perform a more thorough evaluation that addresses potential risks and health and environmental impacts of very long term storage of nuclear waste at nuclear sites (until a final disposal option is developed).

The Nuclear Debate On the Road

Plymouth, Massachusetts, "America's Home Town," is the place where the pilgrims landed, and is also the home of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant. On March 29, a forum was held in Plymouth to discuss a non-binding ballot question for the town election in May. The question is whether or not to freeze the plant's relicensing process until all the Fukushima fixes are completed.

NRC approves two new reactors in South Carolina

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on March 30 voted to clear the way for its Office of New Reactors to issue two licenses for two new AP1000 reactors at the V.C. Summer site in Parr, S.C. This marks the NRC's second approval of nuclear units to be built in the United States in two months. In February, the NRC approved a license for Atlanta-based Southern Company's Vogtle project, in Waynesboro, Ga. The NRC had not issued any new reactor licenses since 1978.

NRC/Fukushima hearing in US Senate on Thursday

A hearing titled "Lessons from Fukushima One Year Later: NRC's Implementation of Recommendations for Enhancing Nuclear Reactor Safety in the 21st Century" will be held in the U.S. Senate on Thursday, March 15, at 10:00 AM EDT. The hearing will be a joint session of the Senate's Committee on Environment and Public Works and the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety.