FPL Gets NRC OK for 10% Extended Uprate of St. Lucie Unit 2

Florida Power & Light (FPL) on Monday got the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) approval to increase power¬¬¬ output of St. Lucie Unit 2 by 17%, from 853 MWe to 1,002 MWe. The regulator had in July approved a similar uprate for St. Lucie Unit 1, and its decision on Monday means FPL can fully proceed with its $3 billion plan to boost nuclear output and save on future fossil fuel costs.

The NRC on July 9 authorized a 10% power uprate and a 1.7% measurement uncertainty recapture for St. Lucie Unit 1, the same increase approved for St. Lucie Unit 2 on Monday. FPL’s Turkey Point 3 and 4 also received an extended power uprate approval on June 15, allowing for a 13% power uprate and 1.7% measurement uncertainty recapture.

Measurement uncertainty recapture uprates generally result in an increase in electrical output of less than 2% and involve implementing enhanced methodologies for calculating reactor power and/or replacing old analog instrument sensors and control systems with modern sensors and digital control systems. Extended uprates increase power output by more than 7% and up to 20% (though only one reactor, Entergy’s Vermont Yankee, has ever applied and been approved for a full 20% extended uprate).

According to the NRC, FPL’s plan to increase the reactors’ power output was safe, even though it would entail significant upgrades to several plant systems and components, including the steam and power conversion system and the condensate and feedwater system. "As part of its evaluation, NRC staff reviewed the company’s analysis showing the plant’s design can accommodate the increased power level," it said.

FPL had said in an April customer bill projection for 2013 that it expected the nuclear uprate project to deliver a total of 490 MW of new nuclear capacity. In that release, it also increased its projections for the total cost of the uprate investment from about $2.95 billion to $3.15 billion, citing "additional labor and engineering necessary to support Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirements and design evolution as well as construction and implementation logistics."

Despite the increases, the uprate project would be "solidly cost-effective" for customers, FPL said. "Based on projections filed with the Florida Public Service Commission in 2011, the projects are expected to save customers an estimated $141 million in their first full year of operation; and, over their operating lifetime they are expected to save customers a total of $3.8 billion on fossil fuel costs," said FPL spokesperson Doug Andrews. Andrews noted that the uprate is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The Energy Information Administration estimates that since 1977




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, more than 144 proposals—a combined 6,500 MWe—for nuclear uprates have been approved by the NRC, and most have been already implemented.

Sources: POWERnews, NRC, FPL, EIA
–Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine)

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