nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

Lithuania deal to dismantle Soviet-era nuclear reactors could be world first

Pamela Largue , January 9, 2023
 https://www.powerengineeringint.com/nuclear/waste-management-decommissioning/lithuania-to-dismantle-soviet-era-nuclear-reactors/

Two contracts have been signed to plan the dismantling and waste management for the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant in Lithuania.

The first of two four-year contracts was signed with a consortium led by Westinghouse Electric Spain, including Jacobs Slovakia, and Lithuanian Energy Institute.

The second contract was signed with another consortium led by the French company Electricite de France.

The dismantling services will be provided in two phases. The first will see contractors propose engineering solutions for dismantling the reactor.

The engineering design concept will be assessed and then further developed in consultation with stakeholders, namely the European Commission, Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Lithuania, CPVA (Central Project Management Agency) and VATESI (State Nuclear Power Safety Inspectorate).

Audrius Kamienas, director general of the Ignalina plant, said in a statement that the signing of the contracts is an important milestone, as dismantling the reactor core is the most challenging part of the decommissioning.

“There are only a few examples of graphite reactors being dismantled in the world today, but the RBMK reactor type has never been dismantled before.

“This is an extremely complex task, unprecedented in the world, for which preparatory work will continue for several more years.”

Physical dismantling of the reactor will commence in 2028 and will be funded by the EU Ignalina Programme.

Graphite-moderated reactor

Dismantling two of the most powerful RBMK reactors is believed to be a decommissioning first.

According to the World Nuclear Association, Soviet-designed RBMK (reaktor bolshoy moshchnosty kanalny, high-power channel reactor) is a water-cooled reactor with individual fuel channels and uses graphite as its moderator.

Ignalina could be the first graphite-moderated reactor plant to be dismantled, making it an important test bed for methodologies that could be used to decommission others of the same type, such as the UK’s Magnox and advanced gas-cooled reactors, which also have graphite cores.

Jacobs Energy, Security & Technology senior vice president Karen Wiemelt, commented: “Our teams based in the UK, France and Slovakia are applying decommissioning skills acquired through work on some of the world’s most complex and challenging nuclear sites including Sellafield and Fukushima.”

In 2002, the Lithuanian government decided to shut down Ignalina NPP, which supplied up to 88% of the country’s electricity.

Advertisement

January 9, 2023 Posted by | decommission reactor, EUROPE | Leave a comment

Dismantling Sellafield: the epic task of shutting down a nuclear site

Nothing is produced at Sellafield anymore. But making safe what is left behind is an almost unimaginably expensive and complex task that requires us to think not on a human timescale, but a planetary one

Guardian, by Samanth Subramanian 15 Dec 22,

“……………………………………………………………………….. Laid out over six square kilometres, Sellafield is like a small town, with nearly a thousand buildings, its own roads and even a rail siding – all owned by the government, and requiring security clearance to visit………. having driven through a high-security gate, you’re surrounded by towering chimneys, pipework, chugging cooling plants, everything dressed in steampunk. The sun bounces off metal everywhere. In some spots, the air shakes with the noise of machinery. It feels like the most manmade place in the world.

Since it began operating in 1950, Sellafield has had different duties. First it manufactured plutonium for nuclear weapons. Then it generated electricity for the National Grid, until 2003. It also carried out years of fuel reprocessing: extracting uranium and plutonium from nuclear fuel rods after they’d ended their life cycles. The very day before I visited Sellafield, in mid-July, the reprocessing came to an end as well. It was a historic occasion. From an operational nuclear facility, Sellafield turned into a full-time storage depot – but an uncanny, precarious one, filled with toxic nuclear waste that has to be kept contained at any cost.

Nothing is produced at Sellafield any more. Which was just as well, because I’d gone to Sellafield not to observe how it lived but to understand how it is preparing for its end. Sellafield’s waste – spent fuel rods, scraps of metal, radioactive liquids, a miscellany of other debris – is parked in concrete silos, artificial ponds and sealed buildings. Some of these structures are growing, in the industry’s parlance, “intolerable”, atrophied by the sea air, radiation and time itself. If they degrade too much, waste will seep out of them, poisoning the Cumbrian soil and water.

To prevent that disaster, the waste must be hauled out, the silos destroyed and the ponds filled in with soil and paved over. The salvaged waste will then be transferred to more secure buildings that will be erected on site. But even that will be only a provisional arrangement, lasting a few decades. Nuclear waste has no respect for human timespans. The best way to neutralise its threat is to move it into a subterranean vault, of the kind the UK plans to build later this century.

Once interred, the waste will be left alone for tens of thousands of years, while its radioactivity cools. Dealing with all the radioactive waste left on site is a slow-motion race against time, which will last so long that even the grandchildren of those working on site will not see its end. The process will cost at least £121bn.

Compared to the longevity of nuclear waste, Sellafield has only been around for roughly the span of a single lunch break within a human life. Still, it has lasted almost the entirety of the atomic age, witnessing both its earliest follies and its continuing confusions. In 1954, Lewis Strauss, the chair of the US Atomic Energy Commission, predicted that nuclear energy would make electricity “too cheap to meter”. That forecast has aged poorly. The main reason power companies and governments aren’t keener on nuclear power is not that activists are holding them back or that uranium is difficult to find, but that producing it safely is just proving too expensive.

… The short-termism of policymaking neglected any plans that had to be made for the abominably lengthy, costly life of radioactive waste. I kept being told, at Sellafield, that science is still trying to rectify the decisions made in undue haste three-quarters of a century ago. Many of the earliest structures here, said Dan Bowman, the head of operations at one of Sellafield’s two waste storage ponds, “weren’t even built with decommissioning in mind”.

As a result, Bowman admitted, Sellafield’s scientists are having to invent, mid-marathon, the process of winding the site down – and they’re finding that they still don’t know enough about it. They don’t know exactly what they’ll find in the silos and ponds. They don’t know how much time they’ll need to mop up all the waste, or how long they’ll have to store it, or what Sellafield will look like afterwards. The decommissioning programme is laden “with assumptions and best guesses”, Bowman told me. It will be finished a century or so from now. Until then, Bowman and others will bend their ingenuity to a seemingly self-contradictory exercise: dismantling Sellafield while keeping it from falling apart along the way.

To take apart an ageing nuclear facility, you have to put a lot of other things together first. New technologies, for instance, and new buildings to replace the intolerable ones, and new reserves of money. (That £121bn price tag may swell further.) All of Sellafield is in a holding pattern, trying to keep waste safe until it can be consigned to the ultimate strongroom: the geological disposal facility (GDF), bored hundreds of metres into the Earth’s rock, a project that could cost another £53bn. Even if a GDF receives its first deposit in the 2040s, the waste has to be delivered and put away with such exacting caution that it can be filled and closed only by the middle of the 22nd century.

Anywhere else, this state of temporariness might induce a mood of lax detachment, like a transit lounge to a frequent flyer. But at Sellafield, with all its caches of radioactivity, the thought of catastrophe is so ever-present that you feel your surroundings with a heightened keenness. At one point, when we were walking through the site, a member of the Sellafield team pointed out three different waste storage facilities within a 500-metre radius. The spot where we stood on the road, he said, “is probably the most hazardous place in Europe”.

Sellafield’s waste comes in different forms and potencies. Spent fuel rods and radioactive pieces of metal rest in skips, which in turn are submerged in open, rectangular ponds, where water cools them and absorbs their radiation. The skips have held radioactive material for so long that they themselves count as waste. The pond beds are layered with nuclear sludge: degraded metal wisps, radioactive dust and debris. Discarded cladding, peeled off fuel rods like banana-skins, fills a cluster of 16-metre-deep concrete silos partially sunk into the earth.

More dangerous still are the 20 tonnes of melted fuel inside a reactor that caught fire in 1957 and has been sealed off and left alone ever since. Somewhere on the premises, Sellafield has also stored the 140 tonnes of plutonium it has purified over the decades. It’s the largest such hoard of plutonium in the world, but it, too, is a kind of waste, simply because nobody wants it for weapons any more, or knows what else to do with it.

…………………………………

………………………………… I only ever saw a dummy of a spent fuel rod; the real thing would have been a metre long, weighed 10-12kg, and, when it emerged from a reactor, run to temperatures of 2,800C, half as hot as the surface of the sun. In a reactor, hundreds of rods of fresh uranium fuel slide into a pile of graphite blocks. Then a stream of neutrons, usually emitted by an even more radioactive metal such as californium, is directed into the pile. Those neutrons generate more neutrons out of uranium atoms, which generate still more neutrons out of other uranium atoms, and so on, the whole process begetting vast quantities of heat that can turn water into steam and drive turbines.

During this process, some of the uranium atoms, randomly but very usefully, absorb darting neutrons, yielding heavier atoms of plutonium: the stuff of nuclear weapons. The UK’s earliest reactors – a type called Magnox – were set up to harvest plutonium for bombs; the electricity was a happy byproduct. The government built 26 such reactors across the country. They’re all being decommissioned now, or awaiting demolition. It turned out that if you weren’t looking to make plutonium nukes to blow up cities, Magnox was a pretty inefficient way to light up homes and power factories.

For most of the latter half of the 20th century, one of Sellafield’s chief tasks was reprocessing. Once uranium and plutonium were extracted from used fuel rods, it was thought, they could be stored safely – and perhaps eventually resold, to make money on the side. Beginning in 1956, spent rods came to Cumbria from plants across the UK, but also by sea from customers in Italy and Japan. Sellafield has taken in nearly 60,000 tonnes of spent fuel, more than half of all such fuel reprocessed anywhere in the world. The rods arrived at Sellafield by train, stored in cuboid “flasks” with corrugated sides, each weighing about 50 tonnes and standing 1.5 metres tall.

………….. at last, the reprocessing plant will be placed on “fire watch”, visited periodically to ensure nothing in the building is going up in flames, but otherwise left alone for decades for its radioactivity to dwindle, particle by particle.


ike malign glitter, radioactivity gets everywhere, turning much of what it touches into nuclear waste. The humblest items – a paper towel or a shoe cover used for just a second in a nuclear environment – can absorb radioactivity, but this stuff is graded as low-level waste; it can be encased in a block of cement and left outdoors. (Cement is an excellent shield against radiation. A popular phrase in the nuclear waste industry goes: “When in doubt, grout.”) Even the paper towel needs a couple of hundred years to shed its radioactivity and become safe, though. A moment of use, centuries of quarantine: radiation tends to twist time all out of proportion.

On the other hand, high-level waste – the byproduct of reprocessing – is so radioactive that its containers will give off heat for thousands of years. …………………………….

Waste can travel incognito, to fatal effect: radioactive atoms carried by the wind or water, entering living bodies, riddling them with cancer, ruining them inside out. During the 1957 reactor fire at Sellafield, a radioactive plume of particles poured from the top of a 400-foot chimney. A few days later, some of these particles were detected as far away as Germany and Norway. Near Sellafield, radioactive iodine found its way into the grass of the meadows where dairy cows grazed, so that samples of milk taken in the weeks after the fire showed 10 times the permissible level. The government had to buy up milk from farmers living in 500 sq km around Sellafield and dump it in the Irish Sea.

From the outset, authorities hedged and fibbed. For three days, no one living in the area was told about the gravity of the accident, or even advised to stay indoors and shut their windows. Workers at Sellafield, reporting their alarming radiation exposure to their managers, were persuaded that they’d “walk [it] off on the way home”, the Daily Mirror reported at the time. A government inquiry was then held, but its report was not released in full until 1988. For nearly 30 years, few people knew that the fire dispersed not just radioactive iodine but also polonium, far more deadly. The estimated toll of cancer deaths has been revised upwards continuously, from 33 to 200 to 240. Sellafield took its present name only in 1981, in part to erase the old name, Windscale, and the associated memories of the fire.

The invisibility of radiation and the opacity of governments make for a bad combination. Sellafield hasn’t suffered an accident of equivalent scale since the 1957 fire, but the niggling fear that some radioactivity is leaking out of the facility in some fashion has never entirely vanished. In 1983, a Sellafield pipeline discharged half a tonne of radioactive solvent into the sea. British Nuclear Fuels Limited, the government firm then running Sellafield, was fined £10,000. Around the same time, a documentary crew found higher incidences than expected of leukaemia among children in some surrounding areas. A government study concluded that radiation from Sellafield wasn’t to blame. Perhaps, the study suggested, the leukaemia had an undetected, infectious cause.

It was no secret that Sellafield kept on site huge stashes of spent fuel rods, waiting to be reprocessed. This was lucrative work. An older reprocessing plant on site earned £9bn over its lifetime, half of it from customers overseas. But the pursuit of commercial reprocessing turned Sellafield and a similar French site into “de facto waste dumps”, the journalist Stephanie Cooke found in her book In Mortal Hands. Sellafield now requires £2bn a year to maintain. What looked like a smart line of business back in the 1950s has now turned out to be anything but. With every passing year, maintaining the world’s costliest rubbish dump becomes more and more commercially calamitous.


The expenditure rises because structures age, growing more rickety, more prone to mishap. In 2005, in an older reprocessing plant at Sellafield, 83,000 litres of radioactive acid – enough to fill a few hundred bathtubs – dripped out of a ruptured pipe. The plant had to be shut down for two years; the cleanup cost at least £300m. …………………………………………………………………………….

Waste disposal is a completely solved problem,” Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb, declared in 1979. He was right, but only in theory. The nuclear industry certainly knew about the utility of water, steel and concrete as shields against radioactivity, and by the 1970s, the US government had begun considering burying reactor waste in a GDF. But Teller was glossing over the details, namely: the expense of keeping waste safe, the duration over which it has to be maintained, the accidents that could befall it, the fallout of those accidents. Four decades on, not a single GDF has begun to operate anywhere in the world. Teller’s complete solution is still a hypothesis.

Instead, there have been only interim solutions, although to a layperson, even these seem to have been conceived in some scientist’s intricate delirium. High-level waste, like the syrupy liquor formed during reprocessing, has to be cooled first, in giant tanks. Then it is vitrified: mixed with three parts glass beads and a little sugar, until it turns into a hot block of dirty-brown glass. (The sugar reduces the waste’s volatility. “We like to get ours from Tate & Lyle,” Eva Watson-Graham, a Sellafield information officer, said.) Since 1991, stainless steel containers full of vitrified waste, each as tall as a human, have been stacked 10-high in a warehouse. If you stand on the floor above them, Watson-Graham said, you can still sense a murmuring warmth on the soles of your shoes.


Even this elaborate vitrification is insufficient in the long, long, long run. Fire or flood could destroy Sellafield’s infrastructure. Terrorists could try to get at the nuclear material. Governments change, companies fold, money runs out. Nations dissolve. Glass degrades. The ground sinks and rises, so that land becomes sea and sea becomes land. The contingency planning that scientists do today – the kind that wasn’t done when the industry was in its infancy – contends with yawning stretches of time. Hence the GDF: a terrestrial cavity to hold waste until its dangers have dried up and it becomes as benign as the surrounding rock.

A glimpse of such an endeavour is available already, beneath Finland. From Helsinki, if you drive 250km west, then head another half-km down, you will come to a warren of tunnels called Onkalo…………. If Onkalo begins operating on schedule, in 2025, it will be the world’s first GDF for spent fuel and high-level reactor waste – 6,500 tonnes of the stuff, all from Finnish nuclear stations. It will cost €5.5bn and is designed to be safe for a million years. The species that is building it, Homo sapiens, has only been around for a third of that time.

………. In the 2120s, once it has been filled, Onkalo will be sealed and turned over to the state. Other countries also plan to banish their nuclear waste into GDFs…. more https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/dec/15/dismantling-sellafield-epic-task-shutting-down-decomissioned-nuclear-site

December 14, 2022 Posted by | - plutonium, decommission reactor, technology | Leave a comment

Failure of the “nuclear renaissance” leaves Britain with super-costly closures of reactors, and electricity shortage

UK facing electricity supply woes after nuclear power stations shut, MPs told

Larger and smaller reactors carry risks, island nation failed to keep pace with nuclear fleet closure

Lindsay Clark, 1 Nov 2022 , Electricity shortages appear inevitable for the UK due to the decommissioning of the nation’s aging estate of nuclear power stations, according to evidence submitted by industry to politicians.

…….. Writing to the Commons Science and Technology Committee, Manchester University’s Dalton Nuclear Policy Group said: “Sadly, it is now much too late to avoid a negative impact on the UK’s electricity supply due to the closure of our nuclear fleet. All eleven of Britain’s Magnox plants have been shut down for many years – the last being the Wylfa plant on Anglesey which ceased operation on New Year’s Eve 2015.

It added: “The fleet of Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors (AGRs) operated by [French energy firm] EDF is also now seeing closures.”

In February, the UK government was warned taxpayers would have to make up a multibillion-pound shortfall to decommission nuclear power stations unless a history of overspending is reversed. EDF Energy runs seven AGR stations in the UK, part of eight second-generation reactors set to be decommissioned which provide 16 percent of the nation’s electricity. The AGR stations are scheduled to stop producing electricity by 2028.

Last year the government injected £5.1 billion ($5.8 billion) into the Nuclear Liabilities Fund – now valued at £14.8 billion ($17 billion) – which it set up in 1996 to meet the costs of decommissioning AGR and Pressurized Water Reactor stations. But EDF’s latest cost estimate to decommission the stations in March last year was £23.5bn ($27 billion). Public spending watchdog the National Audit Office has warned more money will be needed unless the government and EDF avoid overspending.

But as well as overspending, decommissioning also presents a problem for electricity supply.

“It is unlikely that there will be any significant extension to these projected dates, although there may be scope for some slight delays in closure. Once the AGRs are all closed, the UK will only have one reactor from the current nuclear fleet still operational – the pressurised water reactor at Sizewell B,” Dalton Nuclear Policy Group said.

…….  “it is due to the failure since 2008 – with the exception of the long-delayed Hinkley Point C – of all proposals for a nuclear renaissance in the UK to move from plans to reality,” the group said.

In May, EDF admitted to another year’s delay and £3 billion ($3.5 billion) extra cost in Hinkely Point C – the UK’s first nuclear power station to be built in 20 years. The revised operating date for the site in Somerset is now June 2027 and total costs are estimated to be in the range of £25 billion to £26 billion ($29 billion).

EDF said it would have no cost impact on British consumers or taxpayers. The power station had been due online by 2017 at a cost of around £20 billion ($22 billion)………………….. The Science and Technology Committee is set to hear oral evidence for its inquiry on Delivering Nuclear Power during hearings this week.

 The Register 1st Nov 2022

https://www.theregister.com/2022/11/01/electricity_shortages_uk/

November 2, 2022 Posted by | business and costs, decommission reactor, politics, UK | Leave a comment

Cocooning the past. Plutonium reactor in Eastern Washington encased in steel to protect the river

The K-East nuclear reactors stands stripped bare and decommissioned near the banks of the Columbia River at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Hanford’s “sister reactors”, the K-East and the K-West Reactors, were built side-by-side in the early 1950’s. K-East was the eighth. The two reactors both ran for more than fifteen years before being shut down in 1970 and 1971. The Hanford Nuclear Reservation was constructed as part of The Manhattan Project.

Beginning in 1943, the site was used to produce plutonium for the “Fat Man” bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan that brought an end to World War II. After a short lull, plutonium production was ramped up in 1947 and continued until 1987 when the last reactor ceased operation. Weapons production processes left solid and liquid radioactive wastes that posed a risk to the local environment including the Columbia River. In 1989, the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Washington State Department of Ecology began clean up of Hanford.

Tri City Herald, BY ANNETTE CARY OCTOBER 26, 2022

A reactor at the Hanford site has been “cocooned” for the first time in a decade. The addition of a new steel enclosure for the 1950s reactor is an “iconic change to the landscape” at the nuclear reservation along the Columbia River and helps protect the river, said John Eschenberg, president of Department of Energy contractor Central Plateau Cleanup Co. Eight of the nine plutonium production reactors that line the Columbia River in Eastern Washington are being put in temporary storage for up to 75 years to allow radiation in their core to decay to lower levels before a permanent solution is attempted.

The newest cocoon, with its straight sides and sloping roof, creates a new look for the Hanford skyline, much different from the other cocooned reactors which retain much of the original shape of the reactors. Completion of the cocoon over the K East Reactor leaves just one more to be cocooned at Hanford.

The K East Reactor was number seven, with its twin, the K West Reactor, not expected to be cocooned until about 2030. The ninth reactor, B Reactor, will remain unsealed and open for tours as part of the Manhattan Project Historical National Park. From World War II through the Cold War Hanford produced about two-thirds of the plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program.

Production stopped with the end of the Cold War, and now the nation is spending for than $2.5 billion a year on environmental cleanup work at the 580-square-mile nuclear reservation by Richland.

For the K East Reactor a new form of temporary storage was used that Hanford officials expect to save money and better protect the reactor as it waits for final disposition in the coming decades.

No decision has been made on the final plan for disposing of Hanford’s defunct reactors, but allowing radiation to decay will provide safer conditions for workers then. In Hanford’s traditional cocooning, reactors are torn down to little more than their radioactive core, any openings are sealed up and the roof is replaced. NEW TYPE OF REACTOR COCOON But for the K East Reactor, a new, free-standing structure 123 feet tall and nearly 154 feet wide was built over the reactor for the first time.

The new method of cocooning should better protect the nearly 80-year-old concrete of the reactor from wind, sand and cycles of freezing and thawing that take a toll on Hanford structures, Eschenberg said. It also should reduce the need for roof maintenance.

Although the new steel enclosure was designed to last 75 years, Eschenberg said final disposition of the reactor is not likely to be done that late. No decision has been made on what final disposition will be.

Every five years Hanford workers will enter the reactor to check on its condition. New lighting installed within the reactor and between the steel cocoon and the original reactor walls will help make that easier as workers check the condition of the concrete, look for any rodents or other animals, and make sure there has not been any intrusion of water.

………………………………………………… DECADES OF CLEANUP BEFORE COCOONING The initial work at the K East Reactor to allow cocooning of the reactor, which operated from 1955 to 1971, started decades ago. The water basins at the K West and K East reactors were used to store uranium fuel irradiated at N Reactor but not processed to remove plutonium at the end of the Cold War.

The fuel was removed from the two basins, each holding 1.2 million gallons of water, in a 10-year project completed in 2004.

But the fuel had decayed after decades underwater, leaving a highly radioactive sludge that was not all contained and shipped to dry storage at Hanford’s T Plant until 2019, after first being consolidated at the K West Reactor.

Water next was drained from the K East Reactor basin, which is work not yet done at the K West Reactor. The dry K East Reactor basin was filled with grout that was then cut into pieces and removed, requiring the site to be backfilled.

A village of support structures had to be demolished, including the reactor’s powerhouse and fuel oil storage. In addition, sediment basins used for reactor cooling water had to be cleaned up.

Tens of thousands of tons of contaminated soil and debris, including underground piping and utilities, were removed, with most of it taken to a huge lined landfill in central Hanford for disposal.

Most of the soil contamination was from chromium, which was used as a corrosion inhibitor in reactor cooling water. Groundwater contaminated with chromium is pumped up, cleaned and returned to the ground before it enters the Columbia River, about 300 yards from the K Reactors. …………………………… more https://www.tri-cityherald.com/news/local/hanford/article267895437.html

October 26, 2022 Posted by | decommission reactor, USA | Leave a comment

The long process of shutting down Hunterston B nuclear power station

Experts say that the site of the current Hunterston B power station could
be available for use again in around 90 years. Details of the upcoming
decommissioning process for the nuclear site have been revealed as part of
a public consultation over the next stage of the power station site’s
life. Defuelling of the site is currently under way, with decommissioning
expected to start in 2025/26 and it will take around 12 years to demolish
the majority of buildings. A long period of inactivity, thought to be
around 70 years, will follow before the remaining site will be
decommissioned and potentially ready for reuse. Following defuelling,
operators EDF will hand over responsibility to the Nuclear Decommissioning
Authority. The authority’s subsidiary Magnox will deliver decommissioning
activities for the decades to come. A report drawn up for the consultation
reveals that a giant ‘safestore’ will be created from the existing
reactor building, which can shield decaying radioactive materials for up to
100 years. It says: “Buildings and structures will be demolished to ground
level, with basement areas and tunnels backfilled and regraded using
material produced from the decommissioning process.

 Largs & Millport News 26th Aug 2022

https://www.largsandmillportnews.com/news/20777753.hunterston-b-site-available-use-90-years/

August 28, 2022 Posted by | decommission reactor | Leave a comment

Storage of nuclear wastes and of dead nuclear reactors is becoming a political nightmare

Beyond electricity production, the use of nuclear energy also creates
problems related to the storage of spent nuclear fuel and waste, which
brings an additional layer of complexity to the question. Storage of
nuclear fuel requires facilities in geological locations which must fulfil
demanding criteria.

There are only so many places which fulfil these
criteria. Furthermore, long-term fuel storage will create commitments (and
costs) for hundreds of years.

It is easy to imagine how nuclear waste
storage can easily turn into a political nightmare – one can look at the
options in Belgium where the neighboring Luxembourg quickly protested
against storage too close to the border between the two countries; or to
the United States where nuclear storage facilities are planned on
indigenous lands.

A new politics of waste is emerging – the power plants
themselves. As the IEA demands an urgent new round of investment in ageing
nuclear sites, what are we to do with the old ones? The UK newspaper the
Independent very recently ran a story about one such site, Douneray, in the
North of Scotland. It first opened in 1955 and ceased operations in 1994.
And yet, local campaign groups have never been as active. Why? As a 2020
report by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority puts it, the Douneray site
will be ready for other purposes in the year…2333. As old sites come to
an end, new politics of decommissioning begin.

PACCS research (accessed) 13th Aug 2022

August 14, 2022 Posted by | 2 WORLD, decommission reactor | Leave a comment

Germany continues to close down its last remaining nuclear reactors

Germany’s nuclear power operators will continue to decommission the
country’s last three remaining plants, even as the government weighs
whether to keep the facilities running over the winter. E.ON, RWE and EnBW
confirmed they had not procured additional fuel to extend the life of the
Isar 2, Emsland and Neckarwestheim plants beyond the end of the year, when
they are legally-mandated to close.

FT 12th Aug 2022

https://www.ft.com/content/0257588e-0ebe-4696-8c4e-77f0a192b616

August 14, 2022 Posted by | decommission reactor, Germany | Leave a comment

UK tax-payers face £billions of costs for the indefinite future in the clean-up of closed Hinkley Point B nuclear power station

‘End of an error’, say protesters as nuclear plant is shut down. LAST
week’s closure of Hinkley Point B after 46 years was described by
anti-nuclear campaign group Stop Hinkley as ‘the end of an error’. Stop
Hinkley spokesman Roy Pumfrey said Monday (August 1) was not a day to
celebrate the life of Hinkley Point B.

He said Monday was a day to mourn
the production of radioactive waste that would need to be carefully and
expensively managed and monitored for many generations to come. Mr Pumfrey
said: “Some of these timescales for managing the legacy of waste left
over by Hinkley B are truly staggering. EDF’s jamboree on Monday
conveniently ignores the nuclear waste which has been generated over the
past 46 years.

“Under current plans it will be at least another 100 years
before all this dangerous waste is under the ground. “And the costs are
staggering, too. “EDF’s most recent £23.5 billion estimate for
decommissioning advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGRs) suggests it could cost
around £3-4 billion to decommission Hinkley B.

“The taxpayer has been
asked to top up the decommissioning fund by over £10 billion. “Past
experience suggests these costs will continue rising.” Mr Pumfrey said
the UK was left with Hinkley’s legacy of nuclear waste for thousands of
years and even after 46 years, nobody yet knew for sure what would happen
to it other than a ‘vague promise’ to bury it in a geological disposal
facility – a site for which had still not been found.

West Somerset Free Press 7th Aug 2022

https://www.wsfp.co.uk/news/environment/end-of-an-error-say-protesters-as-nuclear-plant-is-shut-down-558377

August 8, 2022 Posted by | decommission reactor, UK | Leave a comment

Sellafield, Britain’s most dangerous building, in the decades-long process of getting its nuclear waste cleaned up.

Britain’s most dangerous building is finally to be made safe after
engineers began removing nuclear waste from an ageing silo left over from
the arms race of the Cold War. Sellafield, at the edge of the Lake District
in Cumbria, has taken the first steps in a project described as the nuclear
industry’s equivalent of putting a man on the moon.

It has spent the past
two decades searching for a solution to the seemingly intractable problem
of cleaning up 10,000 cubic metres of radioactive sludge housed inside a
concrete silo. Known as Magnox, the silo was built in the late 1950s to
receive waste from Britain’s atomic weapons development programme, as
well as its growing fleet of nuclear reactors.

Today it holds roughly 80
per cent of all of Britain’s nuclear waste. For decades the waste has
been dissolving into a highly dangerous and potentially explosive mix
within a building no longer fit for purpose, leading to it being described
as the “most hazardous building in western Europe” – a description
Sellafield itself uses.

In 2005 a leak containing 20 metric tons of uranium
and 160kg of plutonium was discovered to have escaped from one of the
containers. The Office for Nuclear Regulation, the public watchdog, has
designated the building “an intolerable risk”.

This week, the plant
removed the first batch of waste from one of the silo’s 22 compartments
using a robotic arm specially designed for the task. The radioactive
material is then encased in cement, immobilising it to prevent any leakage,
and placed inside a metal container designed to store it permanently. The
project, which has been 20 years in the making and will take an estimated
further 20 years to complete, costs roughly £2 billion a year. Phil
Hallington, head of policy at Sellafield, described the project as the
nuclear industry’s equivalent of putting a man on the moon.

 Times 16th June 2022

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/nuclear-waste-removal-begins-at-sellafield-power-plant-xlcmskffn

June 18, 2022 Posted by | decommission reactor, UK | Leave a comment

Palisades atomic reactor’s shutdown for good, leaving high risk radioactive wastes

No More Risk of Reactor Core Meltdown, No More Radioactive Waste Generation, but Significant Waste and Contamination Risks Continue

Beyond Nuclear, Kevin Kamps, COVERT TOWNSHIP, MI and TAKOMA PARK, MD, MAY 21, 2022–“We are thankful that Palisades shut down before it melted down. The 51-year old atomic reactor has the worst embrittled reactor pressure vessel in the U.S., which was at increasing risk of catastrophic failure due to pressurized thermal shock. To accommodate Palisades’ operation, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) simply weakened and rolled back the safety standards, multiple times over decades. Palisades also has a severely degraded reactor lid, and worn out steam generators that needed replacement for the second time in the reactor’s history. All three were major pathways to core meltdown, which an NRC commissioned report, CRAC-2 (short for Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences, also known as the 1982 Sandia Siting Study or as NUREG/CR-2239) estimated would have caused a thousand peak early fatalities (acute radiation poisoning deaths), 7,000 peak early radiation injuries, 10,000 peak cancer deaths (latent cancer fatalities), and $52.6 billion in property damage. When adjusted for inflation alone, property damages would have surmounted $150 billion in Year 2021 dollar figures.  

And as Associated Press investigative reporter Jeff Donn wrote in his four-part series “Aging Nukes,” shortly after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe began in Japan in 2011, populations have soared around U.S. atomic reactors, so casualties would now be even higher. Donn cited reactor pressure vessel embrittlement and pressurized thermal shock risk as the top example of NRC regulatory retreat. Thank goodness no such nuclear nightmare unfolded at Palisades during its operations, but Consumers Energy (from 1971 to 2007) and Entergy (from 2007 to 2022) were willing to take those risks on the shoreline of the Great Lakes, drinking water supply for more than 40 million people in eight U.S. states, two Canadian provinces, and a very large number of Native American First Nations downstream and downwind, as well as up the food chain. Now, by definition, once the irradiated nuclear fuel is removed from the core, a reactor meltdown cannot happen at Palisades.

But the likely more than 700 metric tons of forever deadly irradiated (euphemistically called spent or used) nuclear fuel, containing more than 1,800 pressurized water reactor assemblies, and comprising more than 150 million curies of hazardous radioactivity, still represent a very significant risk. The vast majority is still stored in the indoor wet storage pool, at risk of a loss of cooling water leading to a catastrophic radioactivity release to the environment. While transfer of irradiated nuclear fuel into dry cask storage represents an increase in safety, it involves the movement of very heavy loads over the pool, and must be done very carefully. In October 2005, a 107-ton transfer cask containing irradiated nuclear fuel dangerously dangled over the pool for two days, and was nearly dropped from its crane by operator error. Had that happened, the ensuing pool fire could have dwarfed even CRAC-II’s casualties and property damage figures cited above, as Palisades’ pool is not even located in a radiological containment structure. Recently, in its careless rush job to empty a storage pool, Holtec, which plans to takeover at Palisades by the end of June, with NRC’s complicit rubber-stamp, caused a radioactive water spill that doused and dosed a worker at its Oyster Creek, New Jersey decommissioning project. In 2018, Holtec’s flawed dry cask storage design at San Onofre, California nearly caused a 50-ton loaded canister to fall nearly 20-feet. For these and many other reasons, Beyond Nuclear, Don’t Waste Michigan, and Michigan Safe Energy Future have legally challenged Holtec’s takeover of Palisades. But the NRC has refused for 15 months to grant us our day in court. We do call for expedited transfer of irradiated nuclear fuel out of the vulnerable pool, but not into Holtec’s dubious and defective dry casks, but rather into safe and secure Hardened On-Site Storage, in order to protect health and environment for the decades the irradiated nuclear fuel will likely be stuck at Palisades with nowhere to go. But Palisades’ shutdown for good means no more high-level radioactive waste will be generated there, which is a very good thing.

Due to all the risks above, Governor Whitmer and Energy Secretary Granholm’s unwise last-second scheme to bail out Palisades with many hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money, and keep it operating for nine more years, must be stopped. So too is Holtec CEO Krishna Singh’s bait and switch to construct and operate a so-called Small Modular (Nuclear) Reactor at the Palisades site an outrageous, high-risk non-starter.

It is now time to safeguard and secure the high-level radioactive waste stored on-site, to clean up the widespread radioactive contamination of the property before it further threatens Lake Michigan and adjacent groundwater aquifers, and to carry out a just transition for the workforce and host region, into the long overdue clean, safe, and affordable renewable and efficient energy system of the future.”e a so-called Small Modular (Nuclear) Reactor at the Palisades site an outrageous, high-risk non-starter.

May 30, 2022 Posted by | decommission reactor, USA | Leave a comment

Entergy shuts down Palisades nuclear station ahead of time

 Entergy Corp said on Friday it has permanently shut a nuclear power
station in Michigan despite a Biden administration plan to rescue plants
like it because they generate electricity virtually free of carbon
emissions. Entergy closed the 800-Megawatt Palisades plant in Michigan that
had operated for more than 50 years. “After careful monitoring, operators
made the conservative decision to shut down the plant early due to the
performance of a control rod drive seal,” Entergy said in a statement about
the plant.

 Reuters 21st May 2022

https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/blow-biden-climate-plan-entergy-shuts-nuclear-power-plant-2022-05-20/

May 23, 2022 Posted by | decommission reactor, USA | Leave a comment

UK Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee sets out the grim facts on costs of decommissioning nuclear reactors

Despite government already having had to provide additional funding of
£10.7 billion, there remains a strong likelihood that more taxpayers’
money will be required to meet the costs of decommissioning the seven
Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor nuclear power stations.

The Nuclear Liabilities Fund, which was set up to meet the decommissioning costs of these stations,
has not kept up with the increased costs of decommissioning or met its
investment targets. In response, government has chosen to top up the Fund
with taxpayers’ money, providing an injection of capital of £5.1 billion
in 2020–21 with a further £5.6 billion expected in 2021–22. HM
Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy have
opted to maintain an investment strategy for the Fund whereby around 80% of
its assets are invested in the National Loans Fund currently earning
minimal returns.

Estimated decommissioning costs on the other hand have
almost doubled since March 2004, estimated at £23.5 billion in March 2021,
and there remains a significant risk that the costs could rise further
putting strain on the Fund.

 Public Accounts Committee 20th May 2022

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5803/cmselect/cmpubacc/118/summary.html

May 21, 2022 Posted by | decommission reactor, UK | Leave a comment

UK nuclear power stations’ decommissioning cost soars to £23.5bn

UK nuclear power stations’ decommissioning cost soars to £23.5bn  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/may/20/uk-nuclear-power-stations-decommissioning-cost Failures in government’s investment strategy mean taxpayer has contributed £10.7bn in just two yearsm Sandra Laville Environment correspondent Fri 20 May 2022

The cost of decommissioning the UK’s seven ageing nuclear power stations has nearly doubled to £23.5bn and is likely to rise further, the public accounts committee has said.

The soaring costs of safely decommissioning the advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGRs), including Dungeness B, Hunterston B and Hinkley B, are being loaded on to the taxpayer, their report said.

Failures in the government’s investment strategy for the fund, which was set up to pay for the decommissioning, have led to the taxpayer topping it up by an additional £10.7bn in just two years.

The nuclear power stations are owned by EDF Energy and provide much of the UK’s nuclear power-generated electricity, which makes up 16% of the energy mix. But the stations are nearing the end of their lives and are scheduled to stop generating electricity during this decade.

The government has recently agreed that once the stations have been defuelled by EDF, which involves the removal of all the spent fuel from the reactor core and cooling ponds, ownership of the stations will be transferred to the government’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) to complete decommissioning.

“The pace at which the stations can be defuelled could have a big impact on the costs, between £3.1bn and £8bn depending on the time taken,” the inquiry report said. “Successful defuelling will depend on all parties being ready and working together, including the NDA being ready to receive and dismantle the volume of fuel arriving at Sellafield. Any delays in the defuelling process could result in costs increasing substantially.

“The handover agreement does not appear to sufficiently ‘incentivise cost efficiency and ensure a smooth transfer of defuelled stations to the NDA’.”

The public accounts committee also said it had concerns over whether the NDA had the capacity to take on the seven AGR stations in addition to its other responsibilities, which includes decommissioning the older Magnox reactors.

It will cost the UK taxpayer £132bn to decommission all the UK’s civil nuclear sites and the work will not be completed for another 120 years, according to latest estimates.

Boris Johnson has pledged to build eight nuclear power stations in eight years. But the UK has no facility for permanently and safely storing the waste from past, present or future nuclear power stations. Most is currently stored at Sellafield, one of the most complex and hazardous nuclear sites in the world.


Nuclear Waste Services
, an arm of the government, is seeking a site to build a geological deposit facility deep underground for all the UK’s nuclear waste.

MPs on the public accounts committee said in their report on Friday the government must learn lessons from the rising costs of decommissioning the seven AGR reactors and be clear how the decommissioning of proposed new nuclear stations would be funded.

The seven stations were sold by the government to EDF in 2009, with the later agreement that the French company would remove the fuel from the stations when they closed, and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority would take on the decommissioning of the sites. But the cost of decommissioning the seven AGR reactors that began to close last year, plus Sizewell B, has more than doubled from £12.6bn in 2004-05 to £23.5bn in 2020-21, the public accounts committee report said.

“There remain significant uncertainties that will need to be managed to prevent further increases in costs and ease pressures on the fund,” the report said. “The cost of defuelling will depend on the stations not closing significantly earlier than planned and how quickly they can be defuelled once electricity generation ceases.”

The public accounts committee, in a previous report, said the cost of decommissioning the older Magnox reactors – which were the first generation of UK nuclear stations – had increased by billions of pounds because of uncertainty over the condition of the sites and how to tackle the decommissioning.

The PAC report said the closure of seven nuclear stations by 2028 would have a significant impact on energy production, but EDF has said there can be no extensions to the life of the reactors while the UK waits for new generating capacity to come online.

May 21, 2022 Posted by | decommission reactor, UK | 1 Comment

Cost of shutting down UK’s old nuclear reactors is doubling and then some

 The cost of decommissioning the UK’s seven ageing nuclear power stations
has nearly doubled to £23.5bn and is likely to rise further, the public
accounts committee has said. The soaring costs of safely decommissioning
the advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGRs), including Dungeness B, Hunsterston
B and Hinkley B, are being loaded on to the taxpayer, their report said.
Failures in the government’s investment strategy for the fund, which was
set up to pay for the decommissioning, have led to the taxpayer topping it
up by an additional £10.7bn in just two years. The nuclear power stations
are owned by EDF Energy and provide much of the UK’s nuclear
power-generated electricity, which makes up 16% of the energy mix. But the
stations are nearing the end of their lives and are scheduled to stop
generating electricity during this decade. The government has recently
agreed that once the stations have been defuelled by EDF, which involves
the removal of all the spent fuel from the reactor core and cooling ponds,
ownership of the stations will be transferred to the government’s Nuclear
Decommissioning Authority (NDA) to complete decommissioning.

 Guardian 20th May 2022

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/may/20/uk-nuclear-power-stations-decommissioning-cost

May 21, 2022 Posted by | decommission reactor, UK | Leave a comment

The dangerous business of dismantling America’s aging nuclear plants

The NRC has given Holtec permission to pare back safety and security requirements at its plants, including security personnel, cybersecurity, emergency planning, terrorist attack drills and accident insurance, according to documents on the agency’s website.

“The NRC has not figured out a permanent solution” to nuclear waste………. “They are using Holtec as a Band-Aid.”

  Accidents at New Jersey’s Oyster Creek power plant have spurred calls for stricter oversight of the burgeoning nuclear decommissioning industry  Washington Post, By Douglas MacMillan  PORKED RIVER, N.J. — The new owner took over the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in 2019, promising to dismantle one of the nation’s oldest nuclear plants at minimal cost and in record time. Then came a series of worrisome accidents.

The new owner took over the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in 2019, promising to dismantle one of the nation’s oldest nuclear plants at minimal cost and in record time. Then came a series of worrisome accidents.

One worker was struck by a 100-ton metal reactor dome. Another was splashed with radioactive water, according to internal incident reports and regulatory inspection reports reviewed by The Washington Post. Another worker drove an excavator into an electrical wire on his first day on the job, knocking out power to 31,000 homes and businesses on the New Jersey coast, according to a police report and the local power company.

All three incidents occurred on the watch of Holtec International, a nuclear equipment manufacturer based in Jupiter, Fla. Though the company until recently had little experience shutting down nuclear plants, Holtec has emerged as a leader in nuclear cleanup, a burgeoning field riding an expected wave of closures as licenses expire for the nation’s aging nuclear fleet.

Over the past three years, Holtec has purchased three plants in three states and expects to finalize a fourth this summer.  The company is seeking to profitably dismantle them by replacing hundreds of veteran plant workers with smaller, less-costly crews of contractors and eliminating emergency planning measures, documents and interviews show. While no one has been seriously injured at Oyster Creek, the missteps are spurring calls for stronger government oversight of the entire cleanup industry.

In the nearly three years Holtec has owned Oyster Creek, regulators have documented at least nine violations of federal rules, including the contaminated water mishap, falsified weapons inspection reports and other unspecified security lapses. That’s at least as many as were found over the preceding 10 years at the plant, when it was owned by Exelon, one of the nation’s largest utility companies, according to The Post’s review of regulatory records.,…………………

Holtec is pioneering an experimental new business model. During the lifetime of America’s 133 nuclear reactors, ratepayers paid small fees on their monthly energy bills to fill decommissioning trust funds, intended to cover the eventual cost of deconstructing the plants. Trust funds for the country’s 94 operating and 14 nonoperating nuclear reactors now total about $86 billion, according to Callan, a San Francisco-based investment consulting firm.

After a reactor is dismantled and its site cleared, some of these trust funds must return any money left over to ratepayers. But others permit cleanup companies to keep any surplus as profit — creating incentives to cut costs at sites that house some of the most dangerous materials on the planet.

Even after reactors are shut down, long metal rods containing radioactive pellets — known as spent fuel — are stored steps away, in cooling pools and steel-and-concrete casks. Nuclear safety experts say that an industrial accident or a terrorist attack at any of these sites could result in a radiological release with severe impacts to workers and nearby residents, as well as to the environment.

(Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the independent federal agency tasked with overseeing safety at nuclear sites, conducts regular inspections during the decommissioning process. But state and local officials say the NRC has failed to safeguard the public from risks at shut-down plants, deferring too readily to companies like Holtec.

“The NRC is not doing their job,” said Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who has pushed the agency to adopt stricter regulations around plant decommissioning. “We need a guaranteed system that prioritizes communities and safety, and we don’t have that right now.”

The NRC’s leadership is divided over the role regulators should play. The agency was created in 1974, as the first generation of commercial reactors was going online, and its rules were mainly designed to safeguard the operation of active plants and nuclear-material sites. As reactors shut down, the NRC began reducing inspections and exempting plants from safety and security rules.

Last November, the NRC approved a new rule that would automatically qualify shut-down plants for looser safety and security restrictions.

Continue reading

May 14, 2022 Posted by | business and costs, decommission reactor, USA | Leave a comment