Constellation seeks licence extensions for Illinois plants

31 October 2022

Constellation Energy Corporation is seeking to extend the operating licences of its Clinton and Dresden nuclear power plants in Illinois by an additional 20 years. The extension would contribute billions of additional dollars to Illinois' economy and help the state meet its goal to get 100% of its energy from clean sources by 2050.

Clinton (Image: Constellation)

If approved by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), this would enable Clinton's single boiling water reactor (BWR) to continue operating until 2047 and Dresden's two BWRs until 2049 (unit 2) and 2051 (unit 3).

Illinois in 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 earlier this year will also help support continued operation of the US nuclear fleet for at least nine years. "Market forces and the continuation of supportive energy policies will play an ongoing role in the ability of the plants to operate for the duration of the extended licences," the company said.

"To get to zero emissions in Illinois and nationally, we will need to operate every carbon-free resource we have for as long as we possibly can," Joe Dominguez, president and CEO of Constellation, said. "With these extensions, Clinton and Dresden will further demonstrate the capability of nuclear assets to provide always-on clean energy when and where it is needed for decades to come, which is a testament to their unique value in addressing the climate crisis."

The two plants are safer, more efficient and more reliable today than the day they were built as a result of continuous investment in new equipment and preventive maintenance conducted during regular refuelling outages, Constellation said.

US reactors are initially licensed for up to 40 years of operation, and this would be a first licence renewal for Clinton, which entered commercial operation in 1987 and is currently licensed to operate until April 2027. The Dresden units, 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.

The two plants are also "economic engines" for the state of Illinois, Constellation said, together contributing an estimated USD1.55 billion per year to state GDP. More than 540 Constellation employees work at the Clinton facility and more than 700 at Dresden, and the two plants combined pay nearly USD40 million annually in property taxes to support local schools, fire departments and other government services.

The Dresden units had been slated for early permanent closure in November 2021 had Illinois not passed policy reforms to support their continued operation, which it did in September that year.

The company expects to file both licence applications with the NRC in 2024.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News