Duke Energy announces plans to extend the operation of its entire nuclear fleet
Duke Energy has announced that, in order to achieve its aggressive carbon emission reduction targets, it plans to extend the life of its entire fleet of nuclear power plants.
The North Carolina company said in a statement it will pursue second licence renewals, which if approved would enable the 11 nuclear power reactors the company operates at six sites to keep operating for another 20 years beyond their current lifespans.
Duke Energy expects to submit a licence renewal application for Oconee nuclear station in 2021, followed by its other nuclear stations. Oconee is the company's largest nuclear station, with three generating units that produce more than 2,500 MW.
The first Duke Energy nuclear power plants will approach the end of their current operating licences in the early 2030s. The company said rigorous preventive maintenance programmes across the nuclear fleet and technology upgrades and investments over the years at all stations have contributed to their continuing strong operating performance. In 2018, Duke Energy's nuclear fleet marked its 20th consecutive year with a fleet capacity factor – a measure of reliability – greater than 90%.
Regulations allow nuclear licensees to renew their licences for up to 20 years at a time
Duke Energy has set carbon reduction goals of at least 50% by 2030 and net-zero by 2050, and keeping its nuclear fleet operating is key to achieving these goals.
US nuclear facilities are licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and were originally licensed to operate for 40 years based on economic considerations, not technology limitations. Regulations allow nuclear licensees to renew their licences for up to 20 years at a time.
All Duke Energy-operated nuclear units have received one renewed licence for an additional 20 years.
The process to renew licences for a second 20 years requires a comprehensive analysis and evaluation to ensure the units can safely operate for the extended operation period.
Duke Energy's nuclear plants are at six sites across the Carolinas: Brunswick, Catawba, Harris, McGuire, Oconee and Robinson.