New Nuclear Licenses Will Ensure Greatest Source of Carbon-Free Energy for Years to Come

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None other than Bill Gates has discussed the necessity of carbon-free nuclear energy to meet global emissions targets by 2050 or sooner. This is an argument with which we’ve wholeheartedly agreed since our inception over a decade ago.

Over a series of many postings, Energy Fairness has blogged repeatedly about the expansion of Vogtle Nuclear Plant in Georgia, with the construction of Units 3 and 4, and the plant’s potential to meet customer demand for decades to come. We’ve also recently been pleased to host an op-ed from the Tennessee Valley’s Authority Chief Nuclear Officer, Tim Rausch, about the addition of 1600 MW emission free electric power to its existing robust fleet.

As important as it is to highlight the achievements at Vogtle and TVA, we’d be remiss if we didn’t discuss the recent relicensing achievements of several mainstay power facilities within the existing U.S. nuclear fleet.

This past week, Exelon’s Peach Bottom Units 2 & 3 became the second nuclear plant in the U.S. to receive approval to operate for 80 years, after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved a 20 year license extension.

Peach Bottom Units 2 & 3 began operation in 1974. The two units were originally able to produce 1180 MW of electricity but thanks to upgrades made back in 2018, the plant can now produce 1382 MW. The units were previously licensed to operate through 2033 and 2034, respectively, but the new extension will allow the plants to stay online until 2054. The extension is a win for a proven source of baseload carbon free electricity generation.

Fortunately, extensions such as Peach Bottom are becoming part of a larger trend.  Last December, in a landmark decision, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) extended the licenses for Units 3 and 4 at Florida Power and Light’s Turkey Point nuclear station until 2052 and 2053 respectively. This approval marked the first time the NRC had extended the operating license of a nuclear facility from 60 to 80 years.

On the heels of the Turkey Point and Peach Bottom license extensions, Dominion Energy has also filed an application to relicense its two reactors at North Anna in Virginia and Duke Energy has announced plans file applications to renew three plants at Oconee in South Carolina. That’s good news for a proven source of reliable and affordable emission free energy. Allowing Peach Bottom alone to continue operating through 2054 will keep more than 536 million tons of carbon dioxide out the atmosphere.

Extending the lifespans of Turkey Point and Peach Bottom is hopefully only “the tip of iceberg” when it comes to the relicensing of other nuclear facilities.  These license extensions along with the Plant Vogtle expansion and the upgrades to the TVA nuclear fleet illustrate the integral role our nuclear facilities could play in finding an affordable and reliable solution to meeting aggressive emission targets over the next 30 years.