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Dec 17 (Reuters) - Nebraska power company Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) will seek to increase the power output of the 800-megawatt Cooper nuclear power plant by 146 MW by 2018.
The project will cost an estimated $243 million, the company said in a statement Friday.
Of that, NPPD has already committed $60 million for modifications to meet relicensing requirements the company agreed to in 2010, when the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) renewed the plant's operating license for another 20 years until 2034.
The Cooper plant is located in Brownville, about 80 miles (128 km) southeast of the Nebraska state capital of Lincoln. It entered service in 1974, and in 2003 NPPD hired a unit of U.S. power company Entergy Corp to operate the plant.
The NPPD said it will increase the plant's output by upgrading equipment like the high pressure turbine. The company said it ordered the turbine last May due to the long lead time in manufacturing.
Much of the new equipment will be installed during three successive refueling and maintenance outages scheduled for 2014, 2016, and 2018.
The new high pressure turbine is expected to be installed during the 2016 outage. Cooper already has a small uprate, approved by the NRC in 2008, of 1.6 percent, resulting in an increase of about 12 MW.
"Regardless of a decision to move forward or not with an extended power uprate, the turbine would still have to be replaced," NPPD President and Chief Executive Pat Pope said in the statement, noting the current turbine is one of the oldest in the country's nuclear fleet.
Since 2005, NPPD said it has replaced other major components, including two low-pressure turbines, a generator rotor and stator, eight feedwater heaters and main power transformers.
The company said it wanted to increase the reactor's output to boost the amount of non-carbon producing electricity the company generates and to sell more power into the regional energy market to produce revenue.
The NPPD board's approval of the power uprate is not a guarantee the project will move forward, Pope said in the statement.
The company still has to ensure the plant can safely generate more power, evaluate the Missouri River's temperature limits, study the transmission requirements, install the high-pressure turbine and make other modifications, he said.
The company also must get regulatory approvals from the NRC and the Nebraska Power Review Board.
At Friday's monthly meeting, the board also approved two contracts with GE-Hitachi Nuclear to provide engineering services to perform analyses and evaluation of the nuclear steam supply system in order to make the application to NRC, at a cost of about $30.5 million. Another $14.2 million was approved for the purchase of a power range neutron monitoring system, which is a system upgrade related to the power uprate project.
GE-Hitachi Nuclear is a venture between General Electric Co and Japan's Hitachi Ltd.