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Duke Energy Seeks Nuclear License Renewals

The Brunswick Nuclear Plant near Southport. Photo: Duke Energy

CHARLOTTE — Duke Energy announced Thursday it will seek to renew for 20 more years the operating licenses for 11 nuclear reactors at a half-dozen power plants including Brunswick Nuclear Plant near Southport.

The two reactors at the 1,870-megawatt Brunswick plant on 1,200 acres next to the Cape Fear River went into service in 1975 and 1977.

Preston Gillespie

“Our nuclear power plants have safely and reliably provided electricity to our Carolinas customers for decades,” Preston Gillespie, Duke Energy’s chief nuclear officer, said in a statement. “These plants generate clean and cost-effective power, provide thousands of well-paying jobs, and produce substantial economic benefits for the Carolinas. Renewing the licenses of these plants is important for our customers, communities and environment.”

Duke Energy said its oldest nuclear power plants will approach the end of their current operating licenses in the early 2030s but continue to perform. Nuclear power is an important part of the Duke Energy’s efforts to lower carbon emissions, company officials said. The company has set carbon reduction goals of at least 50% by 2030 and net-zero by 2050, and its nuclear fleet is key to achieving the goals.

The company expects to submit the license 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 megawatts.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission licenses U.S. nuclear facilities, which were originally licensed to operate for 40 years based on economic considerations, not technology limitations, according to the company. Regulations allow nuclear licensees to renew their licenses for up to 20 years at a time.

All Duke Energy-operated nuclear units have received one renewed license for an additional 20 years. The process to renew licenses for a second 20 years requires study to ensure the units can safely operate for the extended time.

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Staff Report

The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.