The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved Florida Power & Light's (FPL) application for a 20-year subsequent licence extension for Turkey Point units 3 and 4, the first time the regulator has issued licences authorising reactors to operate for up to 80 years.

The two pressurised water reactors, which are located about 20 miles south of Miami, have been in commercial operation since 1972 (unit 3) and 1973 (unit 4), when they were initially licensed to operate for up to 40 years. The NRC in 2002 issued renewed licences for a further 20 years of operation for each unit. FPL submitted a subsequent licence renewal application for a further 20 years of operation on 30 January 2018. The NRC notified FPL of the issuance of the subsequent renewed licences in a letter dated 4 December. Turkey Point 3's subsequent renewed licence expires on 19 July 2052, and unit 4's on 10 April 2053, the NRC said.

"The rationale for the NRC's decision is documented in the staff’s July 2019 final Safety Evaluation Report on the application, as well as the staff's October 2019 final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. The NRC's Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards also reviewed the safety aspects of renewing the licences," the regulator said.

The NRC is authorised under the US Atomic Energy Act to issue licences for commercial power reactors to operate for up to 40 years - a time period which it says was based on economic and antitrust considerations, rather than limitations of nuclear technology. Licences can be renewed for an additional 20 years for an operating lifetime of 60 years in a process that requires applicants to address the technical aspects of plant aging and describe how those effects will be managed, as well as evaluating potential environmental impacts of the plant's continued operation.

Subsequent licence renewals cover a further 20 years of operation beyond 60 years and focus on the management of plant ageing during the 60-80 year operating period, especially the effects of extended operation and high radiation exposure on reactor parts, concrete containment structures, piping and electrical cables, among other things. The NRC will renew a licence only if it determines that a currently operating plant will continue to maintain the required level of safety.

Almost all of the USA's currently operating nuclear reactors have already renewed or applied to renew their licences for up to 60 years of operation, and US operators are now turning to subsequent licence renewals. The NRC is currently reviewing applications for subsequent licence renewals from Exelon Corporation for Surry 1 and 2 and Dominion Energy for Peach Bottom 2 and 3, while Dominion has formally notified the regulator it intends to apply for a subsequent licence renewal for North Anna 1 and 2. According to the US Department of Energy, some 20 reactors are planning or intending to operate up to 80 years, with more expected to apply in the future as they get closer to the end of their operating licences.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Saturday, 07 December 2019
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