In 2007, Entergy Nuclear, owner and operator of Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC), filed a joint application for license renewal of both the Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3 units for an additional 20 years of operation. The current licenses of the plants expire in September 2013 and December 2015, respectively.
Below is an overview of the license renewal process. For additional general information about license renewal, visit the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) reading room. The full license renewal application for Indian Point Energy Center can also be found on the NRC website.
Based on the Atomic Energy Act, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issues licenses for commercial power reactors to operate for up to 40 years and allows these licenses to be renewed for up to another 20 years. A 40-year license term was selected on the basis of economic and antitrust considerations, not technical limitations. The decision whether to seek license renewal rests entirely with nuclear power plant owners, and typically is based on the plant's economic situation and whether it can meet NRC requirements.
The license renewal process proceeds along two tracks – one for review of safety issues and another for environmental issues. An applicant must provide NRC an evaluation that addresses the technical aspects of plant aging and describes the ways those effects will be managed. It must also prepare an evaluation of the potential impact on the environment if the plant operates for another 20 years. The NRC reviews the application and verifies the safety evaluations through inspections.
Public participation is an important part of the license renewal process. There are many opportunities for members of the public to question how aging will be managed during the period of extended operation. Information provided by the licensee is made available to the public in a variety of ways. Shortly after the NRC receives a renewal application, a public meeting is normally held near the nuclear power plant to provide the public information about the license renewal process and opportunities for public involvement, and to solicit input on the scope of NRC's environmental review. Additional public meetings are held by the NRC during the review of the renewal application, and NRC evaluations, findings and recommendations are published upon completion.
All public meetings are posted on NRC’s Web site, with key ones being announced in press releases and in the Federal Register. Concerns may be litigated in an adjudicatory hearing if any party that would be adversely affected requests a hearing. In addition, members of the public may petition the Commission for consideration of issues other than the management of the effects of aging during the period of extended operation of the plant.
If a licensee submits a renewal application that is sufficient for the NRC's review at least five years before expiration of its current license and the agency is still reviewing the application at the end of the five years, the plant can continue to operate until the NRC completes its review.