ST. FRANCISVILLE — Entergy has submitted an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend its operating license for its River Bend Station for an additional 20 years.

River Bend was initially granted a license in 1985 for 40 years of operation, through 2025, the standard timeframe for nuclear power plant initial licenses in the U.S. The following year, River Bend became the second nuclear plant to produce electricity in Louisiana.

It now generates 974 megawatts, and its output meets roughly 10 percent of the total energy demand of Louisiana. The plant has 680 employees, according to the company’s website.

According to Garry Young, Entergy director of license renewal, the application was submitted at the end of May and is expected to undergo at least two years of intensive regulatory review, assessment, site audits and inspections. The NRC also will perform a comprehensive independent safety and environmental review of Entergy’s application before making a decision on the renewal. The company anticipates a response on the application from the NRC in about two years.

Young indicated the renewal application included a summary of an integrated plant assessment and an environmental assessment needed to address safety, aging management and environmental topics related to potential operation for the additional 20 years.

In a statement to The Advocate, the company said, “Entergy is pleased to have recently submitted the license renewal application for River Bend Station to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. We are committed to safety and securely operating the station for our customers, employees, shareholders and the local community.”

The extension, once approved by the NRC, would allow the plant to operate through 2045.

Entergy spokeswoman Elizabeth Fako said there are no plans for expansion of the River Bend facility. In late 2015, the company submitted a letter of withdrawal to the NRC regarding a construction and operating license application for a potential new nuclear plant on the 3,300-acre River Bend site.

In the statement, Entergy said the withdrawal of the construction and renewal operating license application is not a change in position regarding the value of nuclear power but a formal step following the 2009 announcement to suspend new nuclear activity.

“We believe in nuclear energy, but building new nuclear now is not an economically attractive option for our customers,” Fako said.

Entergy has recently closed one of its nuclear power plants and has announced plans to close several others. Fako said there are no plans to close the River Bend station. She said nuclear energy is an important part of the company’s utility strategy and provides some significant benefits, which include:

  • Fuel diversity. The low volatility of nuclear fuel price effectively acts as a hedge against the high volatility of natural gas prices;
  • Environmental. As large-scale, virtually emissions-free resources, the nuclear assets minimize the company’s environmental footprint;
  • Economic. Nuclear plants strengthen state and local economies by generating millions of dollars in direct and secondary spending and paying millions in local taxes and salaries to residents.