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Possibly, a partial solution to unsolved problem of dead nuclear reactors

EnergySolutions cannot dispose of all the waste. Clive is licensed only for the least contaminated material. And the spent nuclear fuel is in the same situation as used reactor fuel all over the country: the Energy Department is under contract to take it, but has no place to dispose of it. Until a permanent repository is built at the proposed Yucca Mountain facility in Nevada or another location, the waste will stay at the Zion site in steel and concrete casks designed to last for decades.

Nuclear Plant Finds Novel Way to Decommission, NYTimes.com, By MATTHEW L. WALD: November 22, 2010 ZION, Ill. — Twelve years ago, Commonwealth Edison found itself in a bind. The Zion Station, its twin-unit nuclear reactor here, was no longer profitable. But the company could not afford to tear it down: the cost of dismantling the vast steel and concrete building, with multiple areas of radioactive contamination, would exceed $1 billion, double what it had cost to build the reactors in the 1970s. Nor could Commonwealth Edison walk away from the plant, because of the contamination.

The result was that Zion Station sat in limbo for more than a decade, and Commonwealth Edison, now part of Exelon, paid about $10 million a year to baby-sit the defunct reactor.

Now, though, the company is trying out a radical new approach to decommissioning the plant that promises to make the process faster, simpler and 25 percent less expensive — instead of hiring a contractor, it has turned the job and the reactors over to a nuclear demolition company that owns a nuclear dump site. The cost will be covered by the $900 million that Exelon accumulated in a decommissioning fund……

The decommissioning operation at Zion, which began on Sept. 1, will skip one of the slowest, dirtiest and most costly parts of tearing down a nuclear plant: separating radioactive materials, which must go to a licensed dump, from nonradioactive materials, which can go to an ordinary industrial landfill.

The new idea is not to bother sorting the two. Instead, anything that could include radioactive contamination will be treated as radioactive waste.

Exelon could never have done this on its own, because the fee for disposing of radioactive waste was too high. But the company has given the reactor to EnergySolutions, a conglomerate that includes companies that have long done nuclear cleanups, and which also owns a nuclear dump…………

The new plan for Zion, by far the largest nuclear power plant to be decommissioned and the first twin-unit reactor to be torn down, eliminates the relationship between contractor and owner. EnergySolutions has hardly any internal cost for burial, beyond shipping. Mark Walker, a spokesman for EnergySolutions, said that the dump could accommodate all 104 of the nation’s operating nuclear plants, “with space left over.”………………

Not everyone is delighted with the idea of Exelon turning the job over to EnergySolutions. Tom Rielly, the executive principal of Vista 360, a community group in nearby Libertyville, Ill., said that with a monopoly provider of dump space also functioning as the contractor, it would be difficult to determine what was being charged for disposal and whether electricity customers were getting a good deal.

But approval from utility regulators in Illinois was not required for the deal, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave its assent, so the work is going forward.

EnergySolutions cannot dispose of all the waste. Clive is licensed only for the least contaminated material. And the spent nuclear fuel is in the same situation as used reactor fuel all over the country: the Energy Department is under contract to take it, but has no place to dispose of it. Until a permanent repository is built at the proposed Yucca Mountain facility in Nevada or another location, the waste will stay at the Zion site in steel and concrete casks designed to last for decades.

Zion Nuclear Plant to Decommission in Novel Way – NYTimes.com

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November 23, 2010 - Posted by | decommission reactor, USA | , , , , , , , , , ,

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