"We are conducting a vast toxicological experiment in which our children and our children's children are the experimental subjects."
—Dr. Herbert Needleman
In 1988, Yankee Rowe applied for the first extension of any nuclear plant's original forty-year license. Though Rowe ultimately withdrew its bid, citing cost, its decision was widely regarded to be an economic conclusion reached by way of safety concerns.
Seeking to avoid Rowe’s fate, the owners of the next plant to seek relicensing argued to the NRC that they were making relicensing unaffordable. In response, the NRC relaxed its rules, and since then, has granted license extensions to every reactor that has applied. As of April 2016, 87 of 99 US reactors currently operate on license renewals, well beyond their original design’s forty-year lifespan.
According to former NRC commissioner David Lochbaum, “The NRC didn’t want to find any more show-stoppers like they found at Yankee Rowe.”
As the next wave of nuclear power plants threaten to reach their extended lifespans of 60 years, the NRC is defining a subsequent license renewal application process which would prolong operations for yet another twenty years, bringing their potential lifespans to 80 years.
To stay informed and exercise your right to comment on this measure, subscribe to receive email updates from the NRC.
Photo: Jeanne Menjoulet