Ad hoc Expert Group on the Economics of Long-term Operation of Nuclear Power Plants

In 2010, 278 reactors in the world were older than 25 years. Projections of nuclear generating capacity to 2030 show that some 160 reactors globally could be retired in the next 10 years on the basis of their original design lifetimes. Without life extensions, nuclear capacity would thus fall dramatically in the next decade, especially if construction of new nuclear power plants also slows down as a result of the Fukushima Daiichi accident. Refurbishments and lifetime extension of existing nuclear power plants today are therefore important to the competitiveness of the nuclear industry in NEA countries as existing nuclear power plants are able to produce base-load power at low and stable cost.

A number of nuclear power plants, notably in the United States, have been granted lifetime extensions of up to 60 years, a development that is being keenly watched in other NEA countries. In the United States, depending on the design, lifetime extension can imply replacement of some large plant components (e.g. steam generators, head of the reactor pressure vessel, etc.). In addition to this, a set of detailed inspections and analysis has to be performed in order to obtain regulatory approval for extended operation.

Independent of long-term operation, equipment in nuclear power plants is regularly upgraded following technological progress and to fulfil new requirements. These requirements are subject to change due to external or internal events and, generally speaking, reflect learning across the nuclear industry. For example, the design of nuclear power plants was modifiedafter the Three Mile Island accident (concerning aspects such as instrumentation and control, human-system interface, etc.).

The economics of the upgrading and long-term operation programme is a key issue for the further development of nuclear development programmes in NEA member countries. The primary aim of the current project is to:

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Last reviewed: 27 September 2011