Nuclear Plant License Renewals

There are 104 commercial nuclear power plants licensed to operate in the United States. Many of these plants have been operating safely for over 40 years. Nuclear plants are initially licensed to operate for 40 years as long as they are safe. But operating experience has shown that theconservatisms incorporated into their designs combined with the various upgrades that have been implemented over the decades has lent operating reactors a particular ruggedness, which has prompted many plants to apply for 20 year license extensions.

The popularity of license renewal applications has prompted anti-nuclear politicians and activists to assert that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission simply “rubber stamps” these approvals. I recently read a letter from a member of the public that claimed existing nuclear plants are “being granted approval to continue operation with little or no upgrade to their infrastructure.” These assertions are simply false.

On the contrary, nuclear plant operators seeking license extensions are required to comply with the conditions and technical specification of the original license (unless they seek to amend their technical specifications as well); and to demonstrate they have designed a robust aging management program for the facility, which includes replacing aging equipment and implementing enhanced inservice inspection and maintenance programs for plant equipment important to safety.

For instance, before applying for a 20-year license extension from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in January, Tennessee Valley Authority replaced all four steam generators in both Unit 1 and Unit 2 at Sequoyah Nuclear Generating Station. These replacement steam generators feature technologically superior steam generator tubing alloy material with improved corrosion and wear resistance properties. TVA performed this replacement (to the tune of $360 million) in order to ensure the continued safety of the workforce and public.

Other operating plants are performing similar plant upgrades to assure the facility can operate safely for the duration of the operating license extension. The NRC does not simply “rubber stamp” these extensions as some people suggest. The regulators require enhanced inspection and maintenance programs based on the facility’s operating history; and have no qualms about requiring more than what a licensee suggests.

Even after the NRC and the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards has determined that renewing a license will not endanger the environment or public, the extension is not guaranteed. Some license renewal applicants must survive a public evidentiary hearing, during which intervenors – read: anti-nuclear organizations – can attempt to prove extending the plant operating license poses a danger to the public.

You can learn more about nuclear plant licensing and find a list of the current applications for license extension at the NRC website:

Author: NuclearGrrl

Nuclear engineer, Buckeye, afro queen, clinic escort, woman in secular equilibrium...

5 thoughts on “Nuclear Plant License Renewals”

  1. Some people note that the NRC “always” approves life extensions, but fail to understand that the applicant may withdraw and resubmit and that the process literally takes years to complete allowing for significant interaction and dialog. The process is very expensive. If a utility realizes that they aren’t going to get approval, they will withdraw it rather than continue to spend money.

  2. I recently read a letter from a member of the public that claimed existing nuclear plants are “being granted approval to continue operation with little or no upgrade to their infrastructure.” These assertions are simply false.

    That doesn’t matter to people indoctrinated in postmodernism.  They believe that objective facts don’t exist (the claim that objective facts not existing being an assertion of an objective fact is a contradiction is lost on them, since they also view logic as “a tool of oppression”).  When someone believes that feelings are truths, you can’t reach them.

    1. Actually, when the tube leak started, the plant and operators performed very well.
      And they are obviously not the same steam generators: the SONGS steam generators are sitting right there at SONGS. Although, a steam generator could possibly be in two places at any one time if no one takes notice of it and if Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty could encompass a whole steam generator at once. But the odds are quite slim.

    2. SAFE compared to what? Put another way, what human activities do you consider SAFE?

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