Mexican nuclear cleared to run into 2050s

30 August 2022

The second reactor at Mexico's Laguna Verde nuclear power plant has been granted an extension to its operating licence, taking the lifetime of the plant into the mid-2050s. Nuclear is seen as doubling its contribution in advance of Mexico's 2050 targets.

Laguna Verde (Image: HF Studios)

Laguna Verde is the only nuclear power plant in Mexico. Owned and operated by the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) on the country's Gulf Coast, it has been generating electricity since 1989, when unit 1 started up. Unit 2 followed five years later. Both units are 775 MWe boiling water reactors supplied by GE.

Work to prepare unit 2 for long-term operation was authorised by energy minister Rocío Nahle García and carried out by CFE. This was assessed to meet regulations by the National Commission for Nuclear Safety and Safeguards (CNSNS), which issued the renewed licence on 25 August so that unit 2 may continue generating power through the period from 11 April 2025 to 10 April 2055.

"With this extension," CFE said that it "remains at the forefront of the production of clean energy in the country and persists as the guarantor of the reliability of the national electricity system."

Laguna Verde 1 completed the same process in 2020, receiving a new licence such that it currently stands to operate until 2050.

Licence extensions in 30-year blocks are somewhat unusual. It is more common among safety regulators around the world to grant such permits on 10-year or 20-year bases. However, all nuclear power plants remain subject to regular checks and ongoing approval of national regulators, no matter the period of their licence.

Mexican nuclear to double?

Nuclear power from Laguna Verde provides 3-4% of Mexico's electricity - just a fraction of the country's largest source, gas, at 63%, while Mexico still uses oil for as much as 10%.

There has long been discussion of expanding nuclear energy in Mexico without firm policy commitment. Most recently, in 2019, it was proposed to add two new large reactors at Laguna Verde, and two more at a new site on the Pacific Coast. A report issued by the Ministry of Energy last week correlated somewhat with this, without providing any policy details.

The report on the potential of Mexico's electricity sector to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions reiterated that the Energy Transition Law specifies that 35% of electricity should come from clean sources by 2024 and for that to reach 39.9% in 2033 and 50% in 2050.

In its projections, the report foresees nuclear continuing to produce its current 11.8 GWh of electricity per year until 2028 and for this to more than double to around 23.5 GWh from 2031 onwards. This implies the addition of new nuclear capacity in addition to Laguna Verde, but no details were provided.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News