Exelon looks for 20-year extension at Braidwood Nuclear Generating Station
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org June 20, 2013 7:02PM
Braidwood nuclear plant
Updated: July 24, 2013 6:41AM
JOLIET — Exelon wants the Will County Board’s support as it seeks a 20-year operating license extension for the Braidwood Nuclear Generating Station.
Scott Humbard, director of governmental affairs for Exelon Generation, spoke to board members at a committee of the whole meeting on Thursday. He said the company, which owns the generating station, filed a license extension application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on May 29. The license renewal process is likely to take about two years and a public meeting on the application will be held sometime in August, he added.
If the NRC grants the company’s request, the station’s two units could continue to operate after the current license expiration dates of 2026 and 2027. The station received 40-year operating licenses in 1986 and 1987 and it began commercial operations in 1988, Humbard said.
Humbard asked the board to pass a resolution in support of the license extension. County Board Speaker Herb Brooks Jr., D-Joliet, said the executive committee would consider the request at its July 11 meeting.
During Thursday’s meeting, county board members peppered Humbard with questions.
Several questions centered on the 2006 release of tritium-tainted water from the facility. The leaks occurred in pipelines that were supposed to carry tritium, a radioactive isotope that is a by-product of nuclear power generation, to the Kankakee River. Forty three acres and nearby forest preserves were contaminated.
Nuclear power stations are allowed to discharge water with tritium at very low levels, but the 2006 spill had levels that exceeded government regulations.
Humbard said Exelon has cleaned up 96 percent of the contamination and excessive tritium is being held in tanks until it can be safety discharged into the river at levels that comply with regulations, he said.
The power station also has complied with all security requirements stemming from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he told board members. The facility has upgraded barriers and fencing and security personnel are trained to defend against assaults.
Humbard also addressed the issue of storage for spent nuclear fuel. The NRC still doesn’t have a federal collection site for the nuclear waste, so Exelon keeps the spent fuel in dry cast silos after it has degraded sufficiently in a storage pool, he said.
Some county board members wondered about the possibility of recycling the nuclear waste, but Humbard said that is not currently allowed in the United States.
Douglas O’Brien, executive director at the Illinois Clean Energy Coalition, said he supports Exelon’s license extension request.
Having a reliable source of power is critical for businesses seeking to locate or expand in Illinois, he said. The Braidwood generating station employs 900 full-time workers, and it offers a cost-competitive clean energy option that powers 2 million homes, he said.