The question is who will pay — for Humboldt Bay, and for dozens of other reactors that are in the process of closing or might soon.
PG&E’s Humboldt Bay trust fund, for instance, is currently $308 million short, according to a company filing to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. PG&E customers will shoulder the cost in the form of higher electricity bills.
“Somebody’s got to pay for it — the money doesn’t come from magic,” said Allison M. Macfarlane, a former NRC chairman. Brittany McKannay, a PG&E spokeswoman, said the company is committed to operating and decommissioning its nuclear plants safely.
The U.S. nuclear industry is feeling its age. Once touted as a source of electricity that would be “too cheap to meter,” plants need expensive upgrades to protect them from terrorism and natural disasters.
At the same time, they face growing competition from renewables and natural gas. Five new reactors are under construction, but current economics give little incentive to build more. Looming is an unprecedented wave of closures.
Yet 82 of the 117 U.S. nuclear power plants, including seven in the process of shutting down, don’t have enough cash on hand to close safely, according to NRC records. And closing tends to cost more than operators expect. Based on NRC filings, the actual combined cost may be somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 billion — $43 billion more than the current balance of the trust funds.
So the coming closures could drag on for decades and place unexpected burdens on investors, consumers or taxpayers.
“The public has a right to demand that all nuclear power plant operators are secure in their funding,” Sen. Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement in response to questions from Bloomberg.
Among the underfunded plants are FirstEnergy Corp.’s Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, site of the 1979 partial meltdown, and Entergy Corp.’s Indian Point, about 35 miles north of New York City……..http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/05/05/world/u-s-nuclear-dilemma-reactors-aging-decommissioning-cash-billions-short-permanent-waste-site-eludes/#.VUldaI6qpHw
Oyster Creek: After 2019, what then?, asbury park press, Randy Bergmann, @appopinion10 May 3, 2015 For people who had lived in the shadow of the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in Lacey for decades, the news in 2009 that it was to close 10 years earlier than allowed under its license extension was warmly welcomed. Finally, the health and safety threats posed by the plant would be coming to an end.
Well, not really — at least no time soon.
That “good news” has been tempered by the fact plant owner Exelon, which agreed to mothball the reactor in exchange for the state not requiring it to install cooling towers, has up to 60 years to remove the from its elevated spent fuel pool, totally dismantle the plant and clean up the site.
A Nuclear Regulatory Commission rule change in 2011 extended the period in which closed nuclear reactors were allowed to decommission from 30 years to 60 years. Although Exelon has yet to establish a timetable for when that will be done, the company’s president and CEO, Christopher Crane, has said it will be no sooner than 10 years, as stipulated in its agreement with the state, and up to 60 years.
In some ways, the risks posed by a closed plant that has yet to be decommissioned can be as great as one that continues to operate and is closely monitored by the NRC.
What are the odds of a disaster occurring at Oyster Creek? They’re remote. But given the nightmarish consequences of such a disaster occurring at a site around which 4.5 million people reside within a 50-mile radius, they’re not remote enough for citizens and the state to sit back and allow the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has a well-deserved reputation as an industry lapdog, to dictate the process every step of the way……..
What is the likelihood of another major nuclear disaster occurring in the future?Researchers Spencer Wheatley and Didier Sornette at ETH Zurich in Switzerland and Benjamin Sovacool at Aarhus University in Denmark last month calculated that there is a 50-50 chance a Chernobyl-like event or worse will occur in the next 27 years, a 50-50 chance another Fukushima event will take place within 50 years and a 50-50 chance a Three Mile Island-type event will take place within 10 years.
Long odds, for sure. But citizens and the state must do everything they can to ensure every step that can increase the margin of safety is taken.
Here are the top six reasons citizens, state and local officials and New Jersey’s federal representatives must pay close attention to the decommissioning of Oyster Creek:
1. The soonest the plant will be decommissioned under the agreement Exelon reached with the state to close the plant early is 2029. If Exelon chooses to close at the end of 60 years, Oyster Creek, the oldest commercial reactor in the nation, would be 110 years old…..
2. Oyster Creek is one of just three nuclear plants with the identical design of Fukushima I, which was the first of three units to melt down. ….
3. Keeping spent fuel in elevated spent fuel pools, as is the case with older plants like Oyster Creek and Fukushima, is believed by some critics to pose greater risks than spent fuel kept in dry casks.
Spent fuel contained in spent fuel pools is the leading cause for concern of those worried about the safety risks of plants that are closed but not fully decommissioned
4. No public participation or input by the state is required under NRC regulations in the development of a decommissioning plan….
5. It isn’t clear whether there will be sufficient funds to provide a safe dismantling of the plant when it is ultimately decommissioned…..
6. If an accident were to occur, the experience from superstorm Sandy demonstrated that the evacuation plan would not work…..
Five steps N.J. can take to improve safety margins………http://www.app.com/story/opinion/columnists/2015/05/01/oyster-creek-nuclear-reactor-decommissioning/26735703/
‘Fukushima lessons: Any notion that nuclear power is clean is obsolete’ Rt.com : April 17, 2015 The world must phase out nuclear power because it is absolutely not clean from the mining processing of uranium to the generation of high-level radioactive waste, Kevin Kamps for the radioactive waste watchdog Beyond Nuclear, told RT.
It’s been four years since the most powerful earthquake in Japan’s history struck the Fukushima nuclear power plant. All of Japan’s 43 operable reactors have been shut down since 2013, because of safety checks required after the accident. The operator of the nuclear plant has sent a second robot inside the Fukushima reactor to collect data from it. The first robot became immovable after recording some footage from inside the reactor.
RT: Since the disaster, Japan has allocated more than $15 billion to an unprecedented project to lower radiation in towns near the power plant. However few locals believe Tokyo’s assurances that the site will eventually be cleaned up. Do you think their fears are reasonable?
Kevin Kamps: Yes, it is an unprecedented catastrophe. Of course there was Chernobyl, but in this area of Japan – it is so densely populated all over. So when they are trying to clear the landscape down to a certain depth, it is going to be more and more expensive. When you add all of the projects from decommissioning of the nuclear power plant to trying to clean up the landscape to loss of economic activity – we’re talking hundreds of billions of dollars all together. It is going to be very difficult for anything like normal life ever to return there.
RT: In addition to massive radioactive remains, Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions are on the rise following the increase in coal-fired power. Should environmentalists sound the alarm here?
KK: Just in recent days there have been the admissions by high-ranking Tokyo Electric officials that the decommissioning of the nuclear power plant could take more like 200 years because of the lack of technology to do the job. They are going to have to invent all of these robotic systems and engineering processes to try to remove the melted cores at Fukushima Daiichi because that is their current plan unlike Chernobyl with the sarcophagus. The current plan in Japan is to remove those melted cores to somewhere else – perhaps to geologic disposal, they haven’t said. But it is going to be very challenging…………http://rt.com/op-edge/250509-fukushima-nuclear-power-danger-disaster/
Only now, 29 years after the nuclear catastrophe, are Chernobyl reactors 1, 2 and 3 to be finally shut
Final shutdown work authorized at Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Rt.com April 10, 2015 The Chernobyl nuclear power plant has officially launched the decommissioning and dismantling of its first three units. The move to fully shutdown the plant comes 29 years after it became site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.
Though the Unit 4 reactor had been rendered inoperative in the 1986 meltdown, the first three continued to work for years after the devastating accident. Unit 2, 1 and 3 were put off the line in 1991, 1996 and 2000, respectively.Work will now be carried out to bring the three units into a “conserved” state in several stages, the first of which will take at least ten years, according to a statement on the plant’s website.……..A Chernobyl site operator said last year when the project was announced that its aim was to bring the three units “to a condition that ensures safe, controlled storage of radioactive substances and sources of ionizing radiation within them.”
A giant radiation shield is also currently being built around the site of the wrecked Unit 4 reactor as part of an effort to contain the radiation the site continues to leak. ……..http://rt.com/news/248737-shutdown-chernobyl-power-plant/
Nuclear plant closure money insufficient – German gov’t report http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/20/germany-utilities-nadal-idUSB4N0VR00V20150320
BERLIN, March 20 Fri Mar 20, 2015 (Reuters) – A report commissioned by the German government believes nuclear power firms have not set aside enough money to cover the long-term costs of decommissioning plants, according to a copy of the report seen by Reuters on Friday.
The report from the law firm Becker Buettner Held said the 36 billion euros already set aside by Germany’s four nuclear operators E.ON, RWE, EnBW and Sweden’s Vattenfall was insufficient and meant the costs could fall on the public purse.
The report added the government should consider legal measures which would force the parent companies of nuclear power plant operators to assume liability in the case ofbankruptcy. (Reporting by Markus Wacket; Writing by Caroline Copley; Editing by Stephen Brown)
Cost of nuclear clean up at Sellafield increased an extra £5bn in the past year Chronicle Live UK By Will Metcalfe 15 Mar 15 The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has been slammed by MPs for the ever-increasing costs at the site in Cumbria Constantly increasing costs for the clean up of Sellafield are Britain’s bill for the Cold War, an MP has claimed.
This week MPs launched a fresh attack against the rising cost and delays of decommissioning and cleaning up the Sellafield nuclear site.
Leading figures from the nuclear industry were questioned by the Public Accounts Committee following the revelation that the expected costs have increased by £5 billion in a year, to £53 billion.
In a recent progress report on the work, the National Audit Office (NAO) criticised the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which oversees the plant, for delays in cancelling a clean-up contract with the consortium Nuclear Management Partners (NMP) after demands from MPs a year ago to do so.
The report said the contract was terminated only last month, at a cost to the taxpayer of £430,000 in cancellation fees.
- The site is used to store nuclear material from across the UK and was the host of a facility which secretly produced nuclear materials for the UK’s defence programme during the Cold War which was finally demolished in 2014……..
Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who chairs the committee, described the rise as “astonishing” and repeated her criticism during a hearing on Wednesday.
Delays had increased by 86 months since September 2013, while costs were going up by billions of pounds, she said…..
She said she was struck by the “unpredictable massive burden on future generations”, telling the nuclear industry officials it was a good idea to have strong targets and ambitions……..http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/cost-nuclear-clean-up-sellafield-8838478
Five ageing nuclear reactors to be scrapped in Japan Sun Daily, 12 March 2015 -TOKYO: Japanese power companies are expected to announce the decommissioning of five ageing nuclear reactors next week, local media reported Thursday.
Four operators – Kansai Electric Power Co, Japan Atomic Power Co, Chugoku Electric Power Co and Kyushu Electric Power Co – will decide on Wednesday to scrap the reactors, which went into service in the 1970s, Kyodo News agency reported without citing any sources.
The operators will avoid the cost of beefing up safety measures to meet higher standards following Japan’s worst nuclear accident in Fukushima prefecture in 2011, Kyodo said.
The Industry Ministry said in January that the cost of decommissioning reactors, which can run to hundreds of millions of dollars and take decades until the property is ready for other uses, should be met by the general public……..http://www.thesundaily.my/news/1353191
Questions remain over future plan for Japan’s aging nuclear plants Japan Times, 12 Mar 15 BY ERIC JOHNSTON As the debate about what to do with Japan’s aging nuclear reactors intensifies, questions remain about the ramifications of decommissioning plants, and how to tear down the facilities in a way that’s efficient, affordable, safe, and that has the support of the local community.
In the United Kingdom, these concerns formed the basis of a policy that has led to the decommission of numerous power stations, two of which began operating in the 1950s……
Seven of Japan’s 48 commercial reactors are at least 40 years old — in principle their maximum operating life. Another five are at least 35 years old and their fate will have to be decided within the next few years.
Kyushu Electric plans to decommission the 40-year-old Genkai No. 1 plant, while Kepco is expected to shut down the Mihama No. 1 and 2 reactors, both of which are over 40 years old. Chugoku Electric plans to decommission the 41-year-old Shimane No. 1 reactor, while the Tsuruga No. 1 reactor, which is 45 years old and run by Japan Atomic Power, will be closed.
Decommissioning a plant is a decades-long process that does not necessarily immediately involve the most crucial step of tearing down the reactors and hauling away radioactive material.
“During the decommissioning of the Berkeley power station in southwest England, we’ve left the reactor building standing because it’s safer to remove the nuclear material in another 60 years,” Franklin said. “We’ve closed the doors on the reactor building until 2074.”
However, he acknowledged publicly visible gestures were important because they could help reassure local communities that the plant was actually being dismantled.
“A skyline change helps garner support for the decommissioning process and for difficult decisions, such as not tearing down and hauling away nuclear materials in reactor buildings,” he said.
“In one case, we destroyed the plant’s cooling towers, which were not actually a major hazard but could be seen for miles. If you live nearby and you see them come down, you feel progress is being made, and that’s more effective than simply telling people about the progress.”
Perhaps the biggest lesson the U.K. learned was that effective decommissioning starts with addressing the corporate and bureaucratic culture at a nuclear plant.
“Changing your culture from making something — electricity — to actually taking power stations down requires a huge cultural change on a nuclear site. That’s something we’re really working on sharing with Japanese nuclear operators,” Franklin said. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/03/11/national/questions-remain-over-future-plan-for-japans-aging-nuclear-plants/#.VQH9CNKUcnk
Getting Rid Of Old Nuclear Reactors Worldwide Is Going To Cost Way More Than People Think, Business Insider, NINA CHESTNEY, GEERT DE CLERCQ LONDON/PARIS (Reuters) 20 Jan 15 – German utility E.ON’s breakup has led to worries that funds set aside for decommissioning reactors will not suffice, but globally the cost of unwinding nuclear is uncertain as estimates range widely.
As ageing first-generation reactors close, the true cost of decommissioning will be crucial for the future of the nuclear industry, already ailing following the 2011 Fukushima disaster and competition from cheap shale gas, falling oil prices and a flood of renewable energy from wind and solar.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) said late last year that almost 200 of the 434 reactors in operation around the globe would be retired by 2040, and estimated the cost of decommissioning them at more than $US100 billion.
But many experts view this figure as way too low, because it does not include the cost of nuclear waste disposal and long-term storage and because decommissioning costs – often a decade or more away – vary hugely per reactor and by country.
“Half a billion dollars per reactor for decommissioning is no doubt vastly underestimated,” said Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based nuclear energy consultant.
The IEA’s head of power generation analysis, Marco Baroni, said that even excluding waste disposal costs, the $US100 billion estimate was indicative, and that the final cost could be as much as twice as high. He added that decommissioning costs per reactor can vary by a factor of four.
Decommissioning costs vary according to reactor type and size, location, the proximity and availability of disposal facilities, the intended future use of the site, and the condition of the reactor at the time of decommissioning.
Although technology used for decommissioning might gradually become cheaper, the cost of final waste depositories is largely unknown and costs might spiral over time. Reactor lifespans are measured in decades, which means financing costs and provisions depend strongly on unpredictable interest rate levels.
“The IEA estimate is, without question, just a figure drawn out of the air. The reality is, the costs are quite phenomenal,” said Paul Dorfman honorary senior research associate at the Energy Institute, University College London………
The IEA’s Baroni said the issue was not the exact cost per reactor.
“What matters is whether enough funds have been set aside to provide for it,” he said. (Additional reporting by Vera Eckert in Frankfurt, Svetlana Burmistrova in Moscow, Scott DiSavino in New York and Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo; Editing by Dale Hudson) http://www.businessinsider.com.au/r-global-nuclear-decommissioning-cost-seen-underestimated-may-spiral-2015-1
Getting Rid Of Old Nuclear Reactors Worldwide Is Going To Cost Way More Than People Think Business Insider, NINA CHESTNEY, GEERT DE CLERCQ LONDON/PARIS (Reuters) 20 Jan 15 –”…….The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission estimates that the cost of decommissioning in the United States – which has some 100 reactors – ranges from $US300 million to $US400 million per reactor, but some reactors might cost much more.
Japanese government estimates put the decommissioning cost of the country’s 48 reactors at around $US30 billion, but this is seen as conservative. Russia has 33 reactors and costs are seen ranging from $US500 million to $US1 billion per reactor……… http://www.businessinsider.com.au/r-global-nuclear-decommissioning-cost-seen-underestimated-may-spiral-2015-1
Japanese electric power consumers to share NPP dismantling costs It costs at least $180 million to decommission one reactor TOKYO, January 14. /TASS/. The costs of dismantling of outdated or unsafe nuclear power plants in Japan will be equally shared by the country’s electric power consumers, a working group of the economy, trade and industry ministry said on Wednesday………The government said nuclear power plants will be decommissioned when their authorized 40-year lifespans expire. Some 5 reactors are expected to be dismantled and the plans will be officially announced next month.
The loss due to decommissioning of one reactor is estimated at least at $180 million. Such expenses could deal a serious economic blow to private companies, which own the power reactors, and weaken the country’s economy in general.
Japan’s energy companies have submitted applications for another 19 reactors to resume their operations, but the process has been slowed down by safety checks and paperwork…….http://itar-tass.com/en/world/771074
Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant Begins Slow Process of Closing, NYT By JESS BIDGOODJAN. 4, 2015 “………..The Entergy Corporation, a Louisiana-based energy company that operates nuclear plants around the country, purchased Vermont Yankee in 2002. The plant had withstood opposition from activists since it opened, but from 2007 to 2010, the collapse of a cooling tower, radioactive tritium leaks and misstatements from plant executives that had preceded them further eroded public confidence in the company.
State legislators tried to close the plant, but a judge ruled in 2012 that they could not. Shortly after that decision was upheld, in August 2013, Entergy announced it would nevertheless close the plant, citing economics.
“It became pretty clear that we could not, this would not be a financially viable resource going forward,” said Bill Mohl, the president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities, which owns the plant, last week. He cited the plant’s small size, the low cost of natural gas for producing electricity and other issues with the market.
“This plant, this area, ranks right up there with the highest antinuke sentiment across the entire country,” said Mr. Farabaugh, who worked in five other plants around the nation before coming to Vermont Yankee.
Entergy projects it will cost $1.2 billion to decommission Vermont Yankee, but its trust fund has about half of that, so the full dismantling of the plant will not begin for decades. Meanwhile, the operators will turn to the mammoth task of cooling, storing and securing the spent fuel there.
Federal law requires the government to develop a long-term storage facility for nuclear waste, but there is currently no plan in place. So the spent fuel at Vermont Yankee, like at closed nuclear facilities around the country, will stay on site, and officials say it will be safe.
The prospect of the plant’s future as a nuclear storage facility worries many of the area’s activists, like Clay Turnbull, the president of the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution, which is based in Brattleboro.
Nuclear plant predicts $1.24B decommissioning cost http://www.power-eng.com/articles/2014/12/nuclear-plant-predicts-1-24b-decommissioning-cost.html?cmpid=enl-poe-weekly-december-22-2014 12/22/2014 MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant has made formal its prediction that decommissioning the reactor will cost $1.24 billion.
The plant currently has about half that amount saved up to dismantle the reactor and complete other tasks. It’s expected to be at least the early 2040s before the fund has grown enough to pay for full decommissioning.
Vermont Yankee owner Entergy Corp. announced in August of 2013 that it would shut down at the end of this year because the plant was no longer economical to operate.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s chief warns that Commission is not geared for needs of decommissioning
Nuclear Agency Rules Are Ill-Suited for Plant Decommissioning, Leader Says NYT By MATTHEW L. WALDNOV. 17, 2014 WASHINGTON — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s rules are not geared for supervising the decommissioning of nuclear reactors, the task that will occupy much of its time in the coming years, the head of the agency, Allison M. Macfarlane, said Monday.
Speaking at the National Press Club in a wide-ranging look at her agency and the industry before she leaves the job at the end of the year, Dr. Macfarlane said the industry had instead set itself up about 15 years ago to oversee more reactor construction, a revival that did not occur. “The industry was really expecting to expand,” she said. “The agency’s not facing the future that five years ago people envisioned.”
Instead, a plunging price of natural gas and slack demand for electricity have made some existing plants uncompetitive, and the pace of retirements has been high. But the commission’s rules on areas like security and emergency planning are geared to operating plants, she said. So shut-down plants are applying for exemptions to the rules that no longer seem to fit the risk that the reactors pose when decommissioned.
As with nuclear waste, the commission’s rules on reactors seem more focused on construction and operation than on the “back end,” said Dr. Macfarlane, a geologist who is returning to academia.
In her comments, Dr. Macfarlane said that the future of a proposed nuclear waste repository near Las Vegas, blocked for years by Senator Harry Reid of Nevada as majority leader, was still far from assured, despite the coming change of party control in the Senate. The commission’s job would be to rule on whether the repository should be licensed, but it could never approve a license without “a willing applicant,” she said.
That applicant would be the Department of Energy, which dropped work on the project after a campaign promise by Barack Obama when he ran for president the first time.
To resume work on the proposed repository, at Yucca Mountain, the Energy Department and the commission would need a new appropriation, she said. And at the time work was stopped, in 2010, “there were more than 300 contentions challenging the application,” she said. Each must be argued before a panel of administrative law judges.
And even then, she noted, Yucca Mountain would not be big enough for all the waste.
In light of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March 2011 in Japan, Dr. Macfarlane said that the commission should consider new rules on some reactors whose design does not resemble the ones that melted down in Japan. The commission has required older plants of the General Electric design to improve their systems for venting gases in an emergency, but perhaps other models should have to do the same, she said……..http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/18/us/nuclear-agency-rules-are-ill-suited-for-plant-decommissioning-leader-says.html?_r=0
Even the pro nukes know that burying dead nuclear reactors is a growing and massively costly problem
World Energy Outlook Warns Nuclear Industry On Decommissioning And Disposal 12 Nov (NucNet): The nuclear energy industry needs to be ready to manage “an unprecedented rate” of decommissioning with almost 200 of the 434 reactors that were operating commercially at the end of 2013 to be retired by 2040, a report by the International Energy Agency says. World Energy Outlook 2014 (WEO), released today in London, says “the vast majority” of these reactor retirements will be in the European Union, the US, Russia and Japan. … The IEA estimates the cost of decommissioning plants that are retired to be more than $100 billion.
Regulators and utilities need to continue to ensure that adequate funds are set aside to cover these future expenses, WEO says.
It also warns that all countries which have ever had nuclear generation facilities have an obligation to develop solutions for long-term storage.
In one scenario examined in WEO, the cumulative amount of spent nuclear fuel that has been generated (a significant portion of which becomes high-level radioactive waste) more than doubles, reaching 705,000 tonnes in 2040.
Today – 60 years since the first nuclear reactor started operating – no country has yet established permanent facilities for the disposal of high-level radioactive waste from commercial reactors, which continues to build up in temporary storage, WEO says..
- 1 NUCLEAR ISSUES
- business and costs
- climate change
- indigenous issues
- marketing of nuclear
- opposition to nuclear
- politics international
- Religion and ethics
- secrets,lies and civil liberties
- weapons and war
- 2 WORLD
- MIDDLE EAST
- NORTH AMERICA
- SOUTH AMERICA
- Christina's notes
- Christina's themes
- RARE EARTHS
- resources – print
- Resources -audiovicual