United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Reactor License Renewal Orientation

All commercial nuclear power reactors operating in the United States must be licensed and monitored by the NRC. The original license issued by the NRC is limited to 40 years. If a reactor operator seeks to extend its original license, it must submit an application to the NRC for an independent evaluation of the safety and environmental issues related to license renewal.

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What Is License Renewal?

The license renewal review provides an independent examination, asking the following questions:

  • Does the reactor operator understand the effects of aging on critical safety components?
  • Has the operator taken appropriate actions to assure safe operation?

For additional information, see How Did the License Renewal Process Develop?

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How Does the Reactor License Renewal Process Work?

If a reactor operator seeks to extend its license, it must submit an application to the NRC that

  • Identifies any reactor system, structure and component that would be affected by license renewal.
  • Demonstrates that it can safely manage the adverse effects of aging during the renewal period.
    For additional information, see What Is a Safety Review?
  • Analyzes the environmental effects of extended reactor operation.

For additional information, see What Are the Requirements for an Environmental Review?

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How Long Does a License Renewal Last?

The initial operating license allows a nuclear power plant to operate for 40 years. The licenses are renewable. 10 CFR Part 54 allows a new license to be issued to operate for up to 20 years beyond the current term.

For additional information, see Why 40 Years?

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What Are the Principles of License Renewal?

There are two principles of license renewal:

  • The regulatory process is adequate to ensure the safety of all currently operating plants, with the possible exception of the detrimental effects of aging.
  • Plant specific licensing basis must be maintained during the renewal term in the same manner and to the same extent as during the original licensing term.

For additional information, see The Principles of License Renewal.

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What Are the License Renewal Regulations?

The license renewal review process proceeds along two parallel paths: One is a safety review, which evaluates whether the plant can continue to operate safely during the period of extended operation. The other is an environmental review, which evaluates the interaction between the plant and the surrounding environment.

  • Safety Review (10 CFR Part 54)
    • Safety Evaluation
    • Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards review
    • Inspection Verification
  • Environmental Review (10 CFR Part 51)
    • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

For additional information, see The Steps in License Renewal.

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The License Renewal Process

License Renewal Process

For additional information, see The License Renewal Process.

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Opportunities for Public Participation

There are ways that the public can be heard:

  • Public outreach information meeting
  • Hearing Opportunities and License Applications
    For additional information, see Hearing
  • Public meetings on environmental scoping
  • Opportunity to provide environmental scoping comments
  • Public meetings on the draft environmental impact statement, if sufficient public interest
  • Opportunity to provide comments on the draft environmental impact statement
  • ACRS meetings
  • Public meetings on safety review, including inspection and audit exit meetings

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License Renewal Schedule

The license renewal process schedule goal is 18 months, if there is no hearing. If there is a hearing, the schedule will be based on the ASLB schedule

NRC monitors efforts to identify process improvements.

For additional information, see Scheduling.

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Roles and Responsibilities

  • License Renewal Project Manager (Safety)
  • License Renewal Project Manager (Environmental)
  • Technical Branches
  • Regions

For additional information, see Roles and Responsibilities.

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The license renewal process

  • Maintains public health and safety and the protection of the environment
  • Allows for public scrutiny and participation
  • Provides a stable and predictable approach that has been demonstrated to be effective

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Orientation Review

Take the Review.

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Monday, May 18, 2020