Nuclear fuel plant gets new 40-year operating license

A nuclear fuel factory in South Carolina, Westinghouse, which supplies many of the nation’s atomic power plants, gained approval Monday from the federal government to operate another 40 years, despite a legacy of environmental and safety problems.

nuclear waste barrels on a grassy field
Photo by Recognize Productions on

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted Westinghouse Nuclear a long-anticipated license to continue operating during the next four decades at the site it has occupied since 1969 southeast of Columbia. Critics of the plant had argued that the license should either be turned down or, at the very least, not be extended for 40 years because of the trouble Westinghouse has had following pollution and nuclear safety rules.

Groundwater on the property is tainted by a variety of compounds, including radioactive material, and it is near a largely African American community that depends on wells for drinking water.

None of the pollution has left the site, officials say, but neighbors remain worried. Meanwhile the plant has in recent years failed to properly manage nuclear material, at times, to ensure workers are not exposed to bursts of radiation.

The license renewal, however, was expected since the NRC signed off on an environmental study recently that recommended the license. The study said only small to moderate impacts to the environment could be expected by keeping the plant operating.

This story has been updated with more information from the NRC. This story was originally published September 12, 2022 5:41 PM.

By Sammy Fretwell Updated September 12, 2022 6:14 PM

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