Duke Energy to Seek Relicensing for 6 Nuclear Plants in Support of Carbon Goal

McGuire Nuclear Station via Duke Energy

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) announced it will seek to renew the operating licenses of the 11 reactors it operates at six nuclear stations in the Carolinas for an additional 20 years.

“Our nuclear power plants have safely and reliably provided electricity to our Carolinas customers for decades,” said Preston Gillespie, Duke Energy’s chief nuclear officer. “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.”

The first Duke Energy nuclear power plants will approach the end of their current operating licenses in the early 2030s. Rigorous, ongoing preventive maintenance programs across the nuclear fleet and technology upgrades and investments over the years at all stations have contributed to their continuing strong operating performance. In 2018, Duke Energy’s nuclear fleet marked its 20th consecutive year with a fleet capacity factor – a measure of reliability – greater than 90%.

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 (MW).

Critical component in reducing carbon emissions

Duke Energy’s nuclear fleet plays an important role in the company’s efforts to lower carbon emissions. In 2018, the Duke Energy nuclear fleet generated more than 72 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and avoided the release of about 54 million tons of carbon dioxide – equivalent to keeping more than 10 million passenger cars off the road. The company has set aggressive carbon reduction goals of at least 50% by 2030 and net-zero by 2050, and keeping its nuclear fleet operating is key to achieving these goals.

Significant economic benefits

Renewing the nuclear licenses will provide significant value to Duke Energy customers, as well as continue to support Carolinas communities through jobs, tax revenues and partnerships. Duke Energy employs about 5,000 workers in its nuclear group, with additional contract workers supporting refueling outages and project work.

In 2018, the company also paid more than $300 million in property and payroll taxes associated with the nuclear stations, benefiting local governments and school districts. In addition, nuclear employees support the communities where they live and work by donating time and funds through sponsorships and volunteer activities.

License renewal process

U.S. nuclear facilities are licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and were originally licensed to operate for 40 years based on economic considerations, not technology limitations. 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 a comprehensive analysis and evaluation to ensure the units can safely operate for the extended operation period. The review process begins with an acceptance review of the application once received, with a goal to complete the subsequent license renewal application review within 18 months of docketing.

Duke Energy’s nuclear fleet

Station Location Capacity
Brunswick Southport, N.C. – Brunswick County   1,870 MW
Catawba * York, S.C. – York County   2,310 MW
Harris New Hill, N.C. – Wake County      964 MW
McGuire Huntersville, N.C. – Mecklenburg County   2,316 MW
Oconee Seneca, S.C. – Oconee County   2,554 MW
Robinson Hartsville, S.C. – Darlington County      741 MW

* Catawba is jointly owned by North Carolina Municipal Power Agency Number One, North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation, Piedmont Municipal Power Agency and Duke Energy