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NRDC presses judges on challenge to Pa. plant relicensing

The Natural Resources Defense Council pressed federal judges today to allow its challenge to the relicensing of a Philadelphia-area nuclear plant.

The case at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concerns complicated Nuclear Regulatory Commission procedures for contesting the licensing renewals for nuclear plants.

NRDC tried to intervene in that process when Exelon Generation Company LLC in 2011 filed for a 20-year licensing extension for its Limerick Generating Station about 30 miles from Philadelphia. The extensions would allow two units to remain online through 2024 and 2029.


Industry urges NRC to scrap new regs

The nuclear industry asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission yesterday not to issue a number of proposed safety upgrades for U.S. reactors, among other recommendations, just as the agency rethinks its staffing levels.

The Nuclear Energy Institute submitted a broad list of reforms as part of a public comment period for NRC's Project AIM 2020 initiative, an effort to downsize the agency in light of a number of reactor projects that failed to materialize.


Exelon's Quad Cities plant gets lifeline under PJM performance rules

Illinois' nuclear standoff is over -- or at least deferred. Exelon Corp., the nation's largest nuclear operator, yesterday announced that its Quad Cities nuclear plant in western Illinois was chosen in last week's capacity auction run by the region's grid operator. That means it will be required to remain ready to run until at least mid-2018.

The surprising disclosure comes a day after PJM Interconnection LLC announced results of its final transitional capacity auction. And it complicates Exelon's push for legislation to create a low-carbon portfolio standard in Illinois that would have provided a revenue lift for the company's 11 reactors in the state.


Industry urges NRC to limit furloughs during govt. shutdowns

As the federal government faces another possible shutdown at the end of this month, the nuclear industry is urging the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to avoid the widespread furloughs the agency saw during the previous shutdown.

"We believe the agency should look afresh at its shutdown contingency plan to ensure staff normally performing 'activities essential to ensure continued public health and safety' and 'activities that ensure production of power and maintenance of power distribution' are not furloughed," wrote Nuclear Energy Institute President Marvin Fertel in a letter last week to NRC.


'Bubbles' study could prevent meltdowns, improve efficiency

In nuclear power plant boilers, bubbles are the enemy.

Lingering bubbles on a surface trap air and create a dry spot on the heating surface that under extreme conditions can lead to the "boiling crisis" -- meltdowns in nuclear power plants and industrial boilers.

Keeping a safe heating level -- known as critical heat flux -- greatly reduces the performance level of power plants and industrial boilers, which translates into higher capital investment and more greenhouse gas emissions.

A team of engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology used a high-speed optical and infrared imaging analysis of boiling to find optimal conditions of textured surfaces and heating points to reduce the risk of the boiling crisis and allow power plants to operate at higher temperatures.

Nuclear Nation

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About this report

The devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan has spawned a major nuclear disaster. E&E examines the implications for energy, the environment, security and public health.


Nuclear Nation

Scores of nuclear power reactors dot the United States. There are 103 reactors that are licensed to operate and 14 undergoing decommissioning. Many others are in planning stages; the four furthest along in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing process are shown on this map. Click on a site icon for more details on the U.S. NRC website.

Proposed and expected to proceed to final NRC licensing


Japanese Response

Nuclear Policy



U.S. Reactors

Public Response