Exelon said to seek license to run Pa. nuclear plant for 80 years

Exelon Corp. said it will seek to extend the operating life of a nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania by another 20 years, joining Dominion Resources Inc. in requesting permission to run atomic generators for as long as 80 years.

Exelon will ask federal regulators for approval to renew the licenses of the two reactors at its Peach Bottom facility, the Chicago-based power generator said Tuesday in a statement. An extension would help the state meet its carbon-reduction goals under the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, Chief Executive Officer Chris Crane said.

Should the commission approve Exelon's request, the Peach Bottom nuclear station would be among the first U.S. reactors allowed to run beyond 60 years. Dominion said last year that it would seek approval to keep the Surry nuclear power plant in Virginia online until it's 80 years old.

The requests come at a pivotal time for the U.S. nuclear power industry as some operators including Exelon have announced plans to retire plants early because of financial losses. Competition from generators using cheap natural gas and renewable resources such as solar and wind have squeezed the profits of reactor owners, particularly those who sell their supply into wholesale power markets.

Exelon had issued a statement on Monday saying that Crane would join officials including Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Chair Gladys Brown at the Peach Bottom station for an announcement on Tuesday "concerning the Station's license renewal program."

The two operating reactors at the Peach Bottom plant are licensed to operate through 2033 and 2034, according to Nuclear Regulatory Commission data. Exelon will seek federal permission for licenses that extend to 2053 and 2054, the company said. Exelon's reactors received their original operating licenses in 1973 and 1974, according to the commission.

The Peach Bottom nuclear power plant, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, serves 2 million customers, Exelon's website shows.