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Energy industry eyes 100-year life cycle for nuclear plants via The Charlotte Business Journal

Can a nuclear plant run for a century? For now, federal regulators allow up to 60 years of licensed energy production. But Gary Mignogna, CEO of Charlotte-based Areva Inc. (EPA:AREVA), says it’s time to consider a 100-year life cycle.

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So Toshiba is working on reverse engineering to fabricate replacement parts for older plants.

If plant life is significantly extended, it will make renovations that increase the output of plants by 5 percent to 7 percent, which the industry commonly refers to as “uprates,” more attractive. Most utilities looking at such improvements could figure that the upfront expense would pay off in 30 to 50 years of additional service.

New construction?

If plant life is extended again, it may slow new construction of nuclear plants in the United States even further. The once-heralded nuclear renaissance of new plants has occurred overseas, but not here.

Four new-generation nuclear units are under construction in the U.S. — two at Plant Vogtle in Georgia and two at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in South Carolina. The Tennessee Valley Authority is completing a long-delayed plant, based on the previous-generation design, at Watts Barr.

Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) is among the companies considering construction of a new nuclear plant — two units at the proposed W.S. Lee Nuclear Station near Gaffney, S.C. But Duke has not committed to building the plant. Executives generally tie a potential construction timetable to the retirement of Duke’s 2,500-megawatt Oconee Plant in Upstate South Carolina when it reaches the end of 60 years of service in 2033.

If the Oconee plant could extend to 80 years or more of operation, that could push a time line for Lee back further.

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