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Does Duke Energy have plans to replace the Brunswick Nuclear Plant?

Jim Brumm
StarNews
An aerial photo of CP&L's nuclear power plant in Brunswick county. StarNews file photo

An aerial photo of CP&L’s nuclear power plant in Brunswick county. StarNews file photo

Q. What plans, if any, does Duke Energy have at this point for replacing the nuclear power plant in Southport when it retires the facility in 20 years?

A. There are no such plans.

Retirement is an option when the operating licenses for the Brunswick Nuclear Plant’s two reactors expire in 2034 and 2036, Duke Energy’s Rick Rhodes said. If that is the utility’s choice, it will be the final decade of this century before the site on Southport’s north side is available for non-utility plans.

The alternative is seeking renewal of the operating licenses – “something (Duke Energy) will carefully evaluate in the coming years as plants reach the end of current licenses,” spokesperson Rita Sipes said, adding there are many variables and unknowns that will have to be thoroughly analyzed before a decision is made.

In August, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission provided industry guidance on the process to seek a 20-year license extension after deciding to not approve a staff recommendation for a new rule for license renewals past 60 years – the age of the Brunswick reactors when the current licenses expire.

This, coupled with the NRC’s determination that spent nuclear fuel could be stored on a power plant site after the plant is retired, “cleared the way” for license renewal beyond 60 years of operation, Nuclear Energy Institute spokesman Tom Kaufman said.

Rejecting the call for a rulemaking, the commission instructed the staff to continue to update license renewal guidance to provide clarity on the license renewal regulatory framework. The staff also should integrate aging-management inspection guidance into each existing baseline inspection procedure and develop appropriate associated guidance and training, submitting an information paper to the commission by the end of 2015 reporting the progress.

Sipes said Duke Energy will actively follow this licensing process to understand the potential costs associated with extending licenses for its 11 nuclear reactors “to determine what is in the best interest of our customers and the communities we serve.”

As Dhiaa Jamil, president of Duke Energy Nuclear, has pointed out, that nuclear fleet generates 50 percent of the electricity the utility delivers the Carolinas.

“The strategy that we currently have is (for the) nuclear niche to continue to be part of the portfolio,” Jamil said, adding: “We need to be planning for replacement of (any) plants that will be soon retiring.”

The problem he faces is illustrated by Duke’s pending application for licenses for the William States Lee III Nuclear Station in South Carolina. Originally slated for completion in 2016, the utility now expects the first Lee reactor to come on line in 2024 – 17 years after Duke filed an application with the NRC.

That’s two years longer than the utility’s formal planning process – the Integrated Resource Plan filed annually with regulators in North and South Carolina. Currently, the first IRP to mention the Brunswick reactors is expected to be filed in September 2019.

If Duke decides to retire one or both of the Brunswick reactors, the unit would begin a decommissioning process lasting 60 years under NRC guidelines, Rhodes said.

Since building new reactors on the site of retiring plants is an option – to make use of such infrastructure as cooling water and transmission lines – this opens the possibility of a new permanent industry in Southport, decommissioning 60 year-old nuclear power plants

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User-contributed question by:
Jerry H

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2 Responses to “ Does Duke Energy have plans to replace the Brunswick Nuclear Plant?”

  1. On October 24, 2014 at 2:58 pm John wrote:

    The info about William States Lee III Nuclear Station is out-of-date. If they decide to move ahead with that plant, it will be a while yet before it comes online. A more recent article:
    http://www.benzinga.com/general/topics/14/09/4842052/3-nuclear-energy-projects-that-could-begin-soon

  2. On December 2, 2014 at 4:27 pm Jim Brumm wrote:

    The “more recent article” is a mid-September analyst’s comment citing the August NRC action reported by MyReporter, which based its Lee Nuclear Station content on Duke Energy’s 2014 IRP — http://www.myreporter.com/2014/10/duke-energy-plans-replace-brunswick-nuclear-plant/ — filed with Carolina regulators September 3.



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