Reactor License Renewal and Subsequent Renewal (NUREG/BR-0291, Revision 3)

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Publication Information

Date Published: April 2018

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001


The Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (as amended) authorizes the NRC to issue 40-year initial licenses for commercial power reactors. The Act also allows the NRC to renew these licenses. Under the NRC's regulations, the agency can renew reactor licenses for 20 years at a time. Congress set the original 40-year term for reactor licenses based on economic and antitrust issues, not on limitations of nuclear technology. However, some parts of a reactor may have been engineered based on an expected 40-year service life. The NRC has established a license renewal process to ensure that these parts are maintained and monitored during any additional period of extended operation. Licensees may also choose to replace some of these parts and components.

Nuclear power plant owners typically seek license renewal based on a plant's economic situation and on whether it can continue to meet NRC regulatory requirements during the period of extended operation.

The license renewal application (LRA) includes general information and technical information as required by Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR), Part 54, "Requirements for Renewal of Operating Licenses for Nuclear Power Plants." The applicant must also submit an environmental report as required by 10 CFR Part 51, "Environmental Protection Regulations for Domestic Licensing and Related Regulatory Functions." The NRC staff reviews a license renewal application on two tracks: (1) the safety review and (2) the environmental impact review. The license renewal process ensures that plants can safely operate, with acceptable environmental impacts, during the period of extended operation. The NRC has considerable experience with license renewals with the first such renewal issued in 2000. To date, the NRC has approved renewed licenses for approximately 90 percent of the currently operating reactors. More information is available on the NRC's Web site.

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