Nuclear power remains Duke Energy’s largest greenhouse gas emissions-free generator. And the company plans to rely on it as it seeks to be carbon neutral by 2050.
In September 2019, the company announced it would seek to renew the operating licenses of the 11 reactors it operates at six nuclear stations in the Carolinas for an additional 20 years.
The first nuclear plants will approach the end of their current operating licenses in the early 2030s. Rigorous, ongoing preventive maintenance programs across the nuclear fleet and technology upgrades and investments over the years have contributed to their continuing strong operating performance. In 2019, Duke Energy’s nuclear fleet marked its 21st consecutive year with a fleet capacity factor – a measure of reliability – greater than 90 percent.
The company expects to submit the license renewal application for Oconee Nuclear Station in South Carolina in 2021, followed by its other nuclear stations.
In 2019, the Duke Energy nuclear fleet generated almost 74 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and avoided the release of more than 52 million tons of carbon dioxide – equivalent to keeping more than 11 million passenger cars off the road.
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 technology limitations.
Regulations allow nuclear licensees to renew their licenses for up to 20 years at a time. All Duke Energy-operated nuclear units have received one renewed license for an additional 20 years. The process to renew licenses for a second 20 years requires a comprehensive analysis and evaluation to ensure the units can safely operate for the extended operation period.