An article on today’s World Nuclear News gave a disturbing glimpse of the future of nuclear power in the United States:
US nuclear utilities could start applying to the regulator from 2017 for operating licence extensions beyond 60 years. Staff at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) say they are preparing for this.
According to the WNN piece:
Under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, the NRC is allowed to issue licences for nuclear power reactors to operate for up to 40 years. The original 40-year period was more to do with amortisation of capital than implying that reactors were designed for only that lifespan. Regulations allow the NRC to extend licences for additional 20-year periods provided the reactor is deemed safe to continue operating. There (are) no restrictions on how many times a licence can be extended.
The article also pointed out the track record of the NRC on license renewals:
Of the USA’s 100 operating nuclear power reactors, the NRC has so far renewed 72 of their operating licences and is currently reviewing a further 18. As of the end of last year, 20 reactors had entered the period of extended operation between 40 and 60 years.