Duke Energy seeks NRC approval for 20-year extension at Oconee Nuclear Station

The utility which owns and operates one of the nation’s first nuclear power plants to gain 20-year license extensions and utilize digital sensors is seeking to keep that facility running through the 2050s.

Duke Energy has filed an application with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to renew the operating licenses at Oconee Nuclear Station for another 20 years. If approved, the South Carolina units would run through 2053 and 2054.

Oconee is Duke’s largest nuclear station, capable of generating more than 2,500 MW of carbon-free electricity. Duke Energy plans to see operating license extensions for 11 reactors it operates at six sites.

“Oconee Nuclear Station has provided safe, reliable, carbon-free energy to customers and our communities for nearly 50 years,” said Oconee Nuclear Station Site Vice President Steve Snider. “Renewing these operating licenses is a significant step toward achieving Duke Energy’s aggressive carbon reduction goals, which cannot be achieved without nuclear power.”

The Duke Energy nuclear fleet plays an important role in reaching the company’s carbon reduction goals. In 2020, operation of the nuclear fleet avoided the release of nearly 50 million tons of carbon dioxide (if that same generation was produced with coal, oil and natural gas) and provided 83% of the company’s carbon-free generation, according to the utility. Duke has set carbon reduction goals of at least 50% by 2030 and net-zero by 2050 from electricity generation.

Oconee Units 1-3 all were commissioned in the early 1970s. They run on Babcock & Wilcox pressurized water reactors and boast a lifetime capacity factor of more than 80 percent, 97 percent in recent years.

Ten years ago Oconee was the first U.S. nuclear power station to utilize digitally controlled sensors, according to reports. It is also one of the 20 largest capacity power generation plants in the U.S.

In May, the NRC approved 20-year extensions for Dominion Energy’s Surry nuclear units 1 and 2. This would total 80 years of operation once the lifespan was completed.

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