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Nuclear Reactors Could Run as Long as 80 Years Under Trump Plan


The U.S. Energy Department is throwing its support behind a request by utilities to extend the life of some nuclear power reactors — keeping them in operation for as long as 80 years.

An official with the department, who asked not to be named to discuss its decision-making process, said the agency was conducting research and working with utilities seeking permission from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to allow nuclear reactors built in the 1970s to keep operating to 2050 and beyond.

Peach Bottom nuclear power station, Delta, Pennsylvania.

Photographer: Stan Honda/AFP via Getty Images

Already, the utilities Exelon Corp., and  Dominion Energy Inc. and NextEra Energy Inc. have said they plan to ask regulators to extend 60-year licenses by 20 years for eight reactors in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Requests for as many as as 20 more are expected to follow, according to the nuclear industry.

The plans have already raised the ire of anti-nuclear campaigners, who cite decades of wear and tear on the nation’s reactors, as well as the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan.

Nuclear power accounts for about 20 percent of electricity generated in the U.S. but competition from cheap natural gas, subsidized renewable power, and stagnant electricity demand has led to a wave of uneconomical nuclear reactors being retired years earlier than planned.

President Donald Trump began a review in June of ways to revitalize the nation’s nuclear industry. Ultimately, the decision on extending the operating license of a reactor lies in the hands of the independent Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but the industry says the help is appreciated.

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Related: Here Are the U.S. Nuclear Plants Looking to Run for 80 Years