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Constellation applies to renew Dresden licence

17 April 2024

US utility Constellation Energy Corporation has submitted a subsequent licence renewal application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for its two-unit Dresden nuclear power plant in Illinois. The plant’s operating licence was first renewed by the NRC in 2004.

Dresden (Image: Constellation)

Filing the licence renewal application with the NRC kicks off a comprehensive, multi-year regulatory review process which will proceed along two tracks, one for the review of safety issues and another for environmental issues. The process involves site inspections, environmental reviews and public participation.

US reactors are initially licensed for up to 40 years of operation. The Dresden units – two boiling water reactors (BWRs) which began commercial operation in 1970 (unit 2) and 1971 (unit 3) – have previously received a first licence renewal from the NRC and are currently licensed to operate until 2029 and 2031, respectively. With the subsequent licence renewal, the units could operate until 2049 and 2051.

The Dresden units had been slated for early permanent closure in November 2021 had Illinois not passed policy reforms to support their continued operation.

Illinois in September 2021 passed legislation recognising the zero-carbon benefits of nuclear, and the plants both receive credits under Illinois state laws that prevented their early retirement and preserved the clean energy they provide, Constellation said. In addition, the federal Inflation Reduction Act which was passed the following year will also help support continued operation of the US nuclear fleet for at least nine years.

Constellation President and CEO Joe Dominguez said: “Extending the operating licences of the nation’s nuclear fleet for an additional 20 years will add more clean megawatts to the grid than all the renewables ever built in this country, and those nuclear plants will continue operating long after the wind and solar facilities under construction today are retired.

“Nuclear produces half of America’s clean energy, but many still take it for granted and wrongly assume it will always be there. In reality, Constellation reinvests hundreds of millions of dollars each year in its industry-leading nuclear fleet to keep these massive economic engines running, providing thousands of family-sustaining jobs, preserving energy security and delivering the unmatched reliability we need to grow our economy while addressing the climate crisis.”

In February, the company applied for a 20-year licence renewal for its Clinton nuclear power plant, also in Illinois. This would be this first licence renewal for the single-unit BWR unit, which entered commercial operation in 1987 and is currently licensed to operate until April 2027.

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