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.

NRC accepts Point Beach SLR application

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has accepted for review NextEra Energy’s subsequent license renewal (SLR) application for its Point Beach reactors, making them the fifth and sixth units currently under consideration for a second 20-year license renewal. (SLR applications for Dominion Energy’s North Anna-1 and -2 and Surry-1 and -2 are also being reviewed, while SLR approval has been granted for Exelon’s Peach Bottom and NextEra’s Turkey Point units.)

NextEra submitted the SLR application in November of last year—the first such application involving a Midwestern nuclear plant. The NRC approved the plant’s initial license renewal in December 2005, allowing Unit 1 to operate through October 5, 2030, and Unit 2 through March 8, 2033.

Second license renewal sought for Wisconsin plant

Point Beach nuclear plant. Photo: NRC

NextEra Energy submitted a license renewal (SLR) application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission seeking to add 20 years to the licenses of the two units at the Point Beach plant. The plant is located on the shore of Lake Michigan, in Two Rivers, Wis.

The application, submitted November 16, is the first SLR application for a Midwestern nuclear plant, according to NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng.

Point Beach’s initial license renewal was issued in 2005.

For more on the story, see this Wisconsin State Journal report.

ASLB adds conditions to Seabrook license amendment

An ASLB calls for closer scrutiny of concrete degradation at Seabrook.

An Atomic Safety and Licensing Board has rendered its decision on a challenge to a license amendment concerning concrete degradation—known as alkali-silica reaction, or ASR—at the Seabrook nuclear power plant, upholding the amendment but imposing four additional conditions. The board found the new conditions to be necessary to provide adequate protection of public health and safety, according to a September 11 Nuclear Regulatory Commission press release. (The ASLB is the NRC’s independent body charged with conducting adjudicatory hearings and deciding legal challenges to the agency’s licensing and enforcement actions.)

The challenge to NextEra Energy’s license amendment for Seabrook was brought in 2017 by the C-10 Research and Education Foundation, an opponent of license renewal for the New Hampshire facility, which houses one 1,248-MWe four-loop pressurized water reactor.

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.