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Nuclear Plant Lifetime Extension

The design lifetime of a power plant depends on the projected effects of normal wear and tear on its components. But these lifetimes are not set in stone – the useful lifetime of a plant can be extended by replacing worn parts, keeping capacity around longer to reduce the need to build costly new plants. This is why many nuclear plants whose operating licenses were originally granted for 40 years are now being extended by twenty years or more.

Lifetime extensions, where possible, postpone plant retirements. Much of the country’s aging nuclear fleet, for example, is reaching its projected useful life and is likely to retire for economic and policy reasons over the coming decades. Extending the life of these plants by investing in retrofits or replacing parts, however, can postpone retirement. However, lifetime extensions themselves may include additional costs, for example to meet security, earthquake, or other standards that may be higher than when the plant was originally built.