The Tennessee Valley Authority said Wednesday it has completed its application with federal regulators to extend the operating life of its Sequoyah Nuclear Plant by another 20 years.
If approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the license extension would allow TVA to extend its original 40-year operating license of its Soddy-Daisy plant until 2040 for the Unit 1 reactor and until 2041 for the Unit 2 reactor. TVA said it expects to spend about $23 million in the renewal process, including NRC charges to TVA to review the applications.
"By applying for a 20-year extension of our current operating license now, we are affirming to the NRC that our plant is safe and in solid material condition," TVA Chief Nuclear Officer Preston Swafford said in a statement.
The two Sequoyah units are among a dozen U.S. reactors now being studied by the NRC for 20-year license extensions.
Among the 104 operating nuclear reactors in the United States, 73 have already been approved for 20-year license extensions beyond their original 40-year license terms, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute. In 2006, the NRC authorized renewal of 20-year operating licenses for TVA's Browns Ferry units 1, 2 and 3, allowing them to operate to 2033, 2034 and 2036, respectively.
The NRC has yet to reject a license extension application, although on Tuesday Duke Energy announced it plans to shut down its Crystal River Nuclear Plant in Florida rather than make costly repairs to the idled unit. Duke's corporate predecessor, Progress Energy, had previously applied for a license extension for the single-reactor plant.
NEI spokesman Mitchell Singer said another 17 reactors, including those at TVA's Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, are expected to also eventually apply for 20-year license extensions.
The NRC will conduct local public meetings near Sequoyah over the next two years as part of the license application process, which typically takes about 30 months.
"Pushing these reactors longer and harder than they were originally designed, I think, is a dangerous prescription, but the industry and NRC seems to have bought into it so we have not actively intervened in these cases," said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in Knoxville.