Duke Energy plans for license renewal at all eleven of their operating nuclear power plants in North and South Carolina.
However, the process is rather lengthy, and Duke Energy experienced it firsthand. They filed for license renewal at Oconee Unit 1 in 1998, and at that time, it was the second nuclear plant to apply for license renewal – the process took almost two year to complete – the new license took effect in 2013 – it expires in 2033.
Although, Duke Energy has announced their intentions to file for license renewal at the remaining 10 reactor units, they do not plan to start until 2021, and the remaining units at Oconee Nuclear Station will be first on their agenda.
The license renewal process includes opportunities for public comment. Although every licensed reactor has previously gone through this phase of the process before, but things can change over the 20-year license period, so the renewal process includes a public comment period, as well. According to Scott Burnell, a spoke person for the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission), there have been cases where the utility or the state have temporarily stepped away from license renewal or agreed to a shorter extension – less than 20 years.
The renewal process primarily focuses on safety and maintenance at each plant, along with other issues, such as, how the concrete and/or other components have held up over the license period and what action(s) have been taken to upgrade or validate its condition.
Most of the country’s nuclear utilities are expected to seek license renewal, because it is just good business – since the nuclear plant construction costs have usually been ‘paid off’ during the 40 year initial license period, and it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the utility to obtain comparable – reliable and resilient power generation from renewables, which share with the nuclear plants, a large up-front investment.
Duke Energy previously announced plans to reduce their carbon footprint to net-zero by 2050, but they explained, it would be impossible to do so, without nuclear. Because nuclear not only supplies reliable and resilient electricity, but they provide it with zero carbon emissions.
Carolina nuclear plants generate enough power for 7 million homes and in South Carolina, nuclear plants provide almost 60% of South Carolina’s electricity.
Listed below are the Duke Energy nuclear plants:
- Brunswick – two BWR Units in Southport, N.C
- Catawba – two PWR Units (jointly owned with three other entities), in York, S.C.
- Harris – PWR Unit in New Hill, N.C.
- McGuire – two PWR Units in Huntersville, N.C.
- Oconee – three PWR Units in Seneca, S.C.
- Robinson – PWR Unit in Hartsville, S.C.