Do you know what U.S. electricity source is the most reliable, provides the most carbon-free generation in the nation, employs thousands of Americans, provides power to 1 in every 5 homes and businesses, and requires the least amount of land? The answer – nuclear power.
For decades, Duke Energy-operated nuclear plants have provided safe, reliable, carbon-free electricity to the Carolinas – and we are planning to operate them for many years in the future. We recently announced that we will seek to renew the operating licenses of the nuclear reactors we operate in the Carolinas for an additional 20 years.
Why extend the life of our nuclear plants?
“Renewing the licenses of our nuclear plants is important for our customers, communities and environment,” said Preston Gillespie, Duke Energy’s chief nuclear officer. “Our nuclear plants generate clean, reliable and cost-effective power, provide well-paying careers, and produce economic and tax benefits for the Carolinas.”
A diverse energy mix helps ensure dependable, affordable electricity, and nuclear energy is a proven part of that mix. Ongoing maintenance and investments in new technology mean our nuclear stations have operated reliably for customers for many years. In 2018, our nuclear fleet marked its 20th consecutive year with a fleet capacity factor – measure of reliability – greater than 90%.
Nuclear energy also plays an important role in our 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.
Plus, renewing the nuclear licenses means our nuclear plants will continue to support local communities in the Carolinas through jobs, tax revenues and partnerships. Duke Energy employs about 5,000 nuclear workers, with additional contract workers supporting scheduled refueling outages and project work during the year. Nuclear employees are active in their communities, donating time and funds through sponsorships, volunteer events and projects.
In 2018, Duke Energy paid more than $300 million in property and payroll taxes associated with its nuclear stations, benefiting local entities, including government agencies and school districts.
What is the process for renewing nuclear plant licenses?
All Duke Energy-operated nuclear plants have received one renewed license. The first Duke Energy nuclear plants approach the end of their current operating licenses in the early 2030s. Our plan is to submit the subsequent license renewal application first for Oconee Nuclear Station, followed by our other stations. Oconee is the company’s largest nuclear station, with three generating units that produce more than 2,500 megawatts.
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 limitations of the technology. The process to renew a license in 20-year increments requires a comprehensive analysis and evaluation to ensure the plant can safely operate for the period of extended operation.
As we look at how best to serve customers and communities for decades to come, nuclear power must remain an integral part of the Carolinas and our nation’s clean energy strategy. It’s the total package: clean, reliable and an economic driver.