The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) last week renewed the operating licenses for Units 1 and 2 of the 2,301-MW Vogtle nuclear power plant in Waynesboro, Ga., for an additional 20 years, making them the 53rd and 54th reactor licenses renewed by the federal regulatory body.

The new licenses will now expire on Jan. 16, 2047, and Feb. 9, 2049, respectively. The Vogtle station has two pressurized water reactors: the 1,152-MW Unit 1, which entered service in 1987, and the 1,149-MW Unit 2, which came online in 1989.

In March this year, Georgia’s Public Service Commission voted in support of plans by Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power to build two new AP-1000 reactors at the Vogtle station. The decision meant that the utility can begin building its nuclear plant in two years, as long as it secures approval from the NRC. Southern Co. filed for a combined construction and operating license in March 2008. That review is expected to take a minimum of three years to complete, though Georgia Power has said the new reactors could enter service in 2016 and 2017.

The NRC said it made the decision to renew the licenses for Units 1 and 2 after “thorough” safety and environmental reviews of the application submitted in June 2007.

Twelve other renewal applications are under review. Nuclear power constitutes approximately 20% of all the electric power produced in the U.S. According to the NRC, about 10% of existing plant operating licenses will expire by the end of 2010 and more than 40% will expire by 2015.

Source: NRC