The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has renewed the first ever 40-year-operating license of a nuclear facility in the U.S., granting it to AREVA NP’s nuclear fabrication facility in Richland, Wash.

The Richland facility produces uranium oxide powder, pellets, and fuel rod components as well as fuel assemblies for pressurized water reactors and boiling water reactors. The NRC has licensed the facility to possess and process uranium enriched to a maximum of 5% by weight in the isotope U235 for the manufacture of fuel assemblies for commercial nuclear power plants.

The license terms for fuel fabrication facilities are not specified in legislation or NRC regulations. Previously, the NRC had licensed fuel fabrication facilities for maximum terms of 20 years. In 2006, the commission authorized extending the maximum license term to 40 years. Actual license terms depend on the facility, its safety programs and procedures, and its aging management program.

AREVA submitted its application to renew the license on Oct. 24, 2006. The NRC published a notice of opportunity to request a hearing March 15, 2007; no hearing requests were filed. An environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact was issued April 3, 2009. The NRC said that its staff’s safety review examined
AREVA’s programs for criticality safety, fire safety, chemical safety, security, and emergency planning.

Source: NRC, AREVA