NRC Ends Discussion Over 40-Year License Renewal, Quashing 100-Year Plant Operation For Now

On June 22, 2021, the NRC issued a memorandum with its decision, reasoning, and recommendations…

This process started in May of 2020 when a licensee requested, along with its application for a new plant, simultaneous license renewal of 20 years and subsequent license renewal for another 20 years. The licensee was asking for an 80-year license date out of the gate, up from the standard 40-year license historically granted.

This prompted the NRC to consider the matter of granting a 40-year renewal, presumably to save some time and effort by consolidating the efforts now that the industry has over 60 years of operating experience under its belt.

Because over 90 percent of the US reactors have already applied for (initial) license renewal to extend plant life to 60 years, a 40-year license renewal would naturally mean consideration of plant life to 100 years.

To address the possibility, the NRC formed a working group and held two public meetings. The working group was made up of NRC staff members from multiple offices to consider “topics related to legal/regulatory issues, the environmental review, the safety review, and inspection/oversight aspects.”

The public meetings were held after the group’s work reached maturity. The January 2021 meeting focused on technical issues associated with a 100-year operation life, and a February meeting focused on the 40-year license renewal process.

Ultimately, public opinion was not in favor of the idea of 100-year plant life. Combined with the need for further research, the issue was essentially closed for now.

A summary from the NRC’s memorandum is presented below. Click this link to read the full report.

From this activity, as described in the enclosure, the staff has the following recommendations:

(1) Discontinue the activity to consider regulatory and other changes to enable license renewal for 40 years.

(2) Consider an evaluation of possible changes to oversight and inspection activities related to license renewal and subsequent license renewal.

(3) Consider an evaluation to identify on-going research activities (related to. concrete, cables, reactor vessel internals and reactor pressure vessels) that could be extended to greater exposure levels (e.g., higher fluence levels) to address the potential for reactor operations up to 100 years.

(4) Periodically query the industry to determine their interest and timing to pursue operation to 100 years, so that the staff can identify the need and timeframe to initiate development of guidance documents which would support 100 years of plant operation.

(5) Consider an evaluation of impacts to plant risk from the combined effects of multiple aged components, and affirmation of the conclusions in NUREG-1412, “Foundation for the Adequacy of the Licensing Bases, A Supplement to the Statement of Considerations for the Rule on Nuclear Power Plant License Renewal (10 CFR Part 54),” should license renewal to 100 years of plant operation be contemplated in the future.