PA Nuke License Renewed

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 @ 02:10 PM gHale

Even though its original license does not expire for 10 more years, the Limerick Generating Station received a renewed operating license for an additional 20 years from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The renewals come a 10 years before the first of the original 40-year licenses on the two nuclear reactors were set to expire. The operating license for Unit One expires on Oct. 26, 2024 and on June 22, 2029 for Unit Two.

As a result, the new licenses will expire Oct. 26, 2044 for Unit One and June 22, 2049 for Unit Two for the Pennsylvania-based nuclear facility.

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“Today’s announcement is great news for Limerick employees, our customers and the community,” said Tom Dougherty, site vice president. “We are committed to running the plant at world-class levels through 2049, providing clean, safe, reliable energy while powering the local economy.”

The license renewal is the 75th issued by the NRC and 17 additional nuclear plant license renewal applications are currently under review, according to the NRC.

The NRC has never denied a license renewal application from a nuclear plant.

Exelon, which owns the plant, said in the past five years, Exelon has invested more than $500 million in plant components and technology.

Exelon reported that collectively, its personnel spent 60,000 hours preparing the 2,000 page license renewal application submitted on June 22, 2011.

The process “involved review of thousands of documents, a detailed review of historical equipment and component performance, and a rigorous review of the existing maintenance and engineering programs to ensure the station is capable of maintaining plant systems over the extended license period,” the company said.

“The NRC makes the decision to grant or deny the license renewal based on whether the applicant has demonstrated that the environmental and safety requirements in the agency’s regulations can be met during the period of extended operation,” according to the 12-page decision document.

NRC’s review also included consideration of 14 different energy alternatives to the nuclear power plant, including ocean wave and current energy, wood waste, geothermal, solar and wind.

In August, the NRC concluded when compared to the alternatives, renewing Limerick’s license for another 20 years will have “small environmental impacts in all areas” and that those impacts will be “smaller than those of the feasible and commercially viable replacement power alternatives considered.”

The plant generates 2,345 megawatts of electricity, enough power for roughly two million homes, according to Exelon.

Perhaps the issues which dogged the renewal application most continuously was the question of the storage of spent fuel rods.

With the federal government’s failure to create a permanent storage facility for the nation’s spent fuel at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, nuclear plants have begun storing their spent fuel rods, which will remain radioactive for hundreds of years, on-site. Limerick falls into that category.

The spent fuel assemblies in the pools inside the reactor buildings ended up re-arranged to make room for more fuel rods and the older, colder fuel removed from the pools and encased in steel and cement using a method called “dry cask storage.”

But on Aug. 26, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced the issuing of a final rule governing the on-site storage of spent nuclear fuel.

The rule marked the end of a two-year process made necessary by a June, 2012 U.S. Court of Appeals ruling which ordered the NRC to consider several potential developments that could result from the continued and expanded storage of spent nuclear fuel on-site at nuclear plants.

As the result of the final rule issued, the suspension of final decisions on nuclear plant license renewals lifted.

Two days later, on Aug. 28, the “final environmental impact statement” for the plant’s re-licensing application ended up issued and posted online, a crucial step forward for renewal application.

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