The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

South Africa’s nuclear decommissioning dilemma

Why decommissioning South Africa’s Koeberg nuclear plant won’t be easy The Conversation,  Hartmut Winkler, Professor of Physics, University of Johannesburg, January 26, 2018 

Africa’s only operational nuclear power plant is in an area called Koeberg, outside Cape Town in South Africa. The life span of the plant was originally meant to end in 2024. But after an upgrade it’s now expected to operate until around 2044.

In theory it could be shut down, or decommissioned, earlier than if, for example, there was a spike in anti-nuclear sentiment, it becomes unprofitable or a serious technical failure developed……

The funding for decommissioning, which is an expensive process, needs to be secured well in advance. Failing to decommission the site properly would saddle Cape Town with a dangerous radiation hazard for generations to come.

Responsibility for Koeberg’s site rehabilitation rests with its operator, the state electricity utility, Eskom. For now decommissioning Koeberg is not a priority for Eskom’s newly appointed board given its need to deal with the financial pressure and allegations of corruption the utility is facing.

But it will nevertheless need to start planning soon……….

All nuclear power plants accredited by the International Atomic Energy Agency must regularly set aside funds to finance the eventual decommissioning. By 2016, Eskom had paid R10.9 billion into a trust for this purpose.

But these provisions seem insufficient and the utility will probably need to raise additional funding to shut down Koeberg.

Eskom is responsible to pay for the site’s rehabilitation, but not for final waste disposal. The funding of that process ultimately becomes the responsibility of the state.

Waste from Koeberg

The arrangement is that low and intermediate-level nuclear waste is transported to a site called Vaalputs in sparsely populated Namakwaland, about 500 km north of Cape Town. High-level waste is kept on site in Koeberg in what are known as fuel pools.

South Africa doesn’t have storage facilities for its high-level waste. Like the rest of the world, construction of nuclear plants was initiated without a specific waste disposal plan, with the understanding that each country would manage and pay for it themselves.

Unfortunately South Africa is likely to approach decommissioning Koeberg in the same way other countries have done it – by effectively leaving the waste on site indefinitely in temporary storage facilities. This avoids the expense of waste processing as well as making difficult political decisions. But it passes the problem to future generations while continuing to expose the nuclear plant’s neighbourhood to contamination risk. This is a serious risk at Koeberg given that it’s a mere 30 km from the Cape Town city centre.

Koeberg’s decommissioning is an awkward reality that cannot be ignored for much longer. This should become the main focus for nuclear professionals in South Africa, rather than new plants. Eskom and other parties in the energy space need to develop detailed, credible decommissioning work plans with realistic costing scenarios and funding strategies. A crisis can be avoided, but only through early and proper planning.


February 10, 2018 Posted by | decommission reactor, South Africa | Leave a comment

The nuclear decommissioning process

Why decommissioning South Africa’s Koeberg nuclear plant won’t be easy  The Conversation,  Hartmut Winkler  Professor of Physics, University of Johannesburg, January 26, 2018  

“……..There are three stages in the rehabilitation of a nuclear facility.

  1. The plant must be dismantled. This is complicated because most of the material in and around the plant is radioactive to varying degrees and therefore dangerous to anything exposed to it. Radioactivity reduces with time, but for some isotopes commonly found in nuclear waste, the drop in radiation levels can be very slow. Because of this a plant will only be dismantled years after it’s been switched off.
  2. The dangerous nuclear waste, or high level waste must be reprocessed. Most of the material stays dangerous for decades but some isotopes retain high levels of radiation levels for thousands of years. A portion of nuclear waste can be converted into reusable or less radioactive forms through nuclear engineering processes. These processes are complex and there are only a few facilities in the world that can perform them. This means that South Africa’s high level waste will have to be transported overseas. Reprocessing facilities include La Hague in France and the Russian Mayak site, thought to be responsible for the 2017 ruthenium leak incident.
  3. The remaining nuclear waste must be secured in storage, virtually forever. This needs an isolated site that can’t be damaged by natural disasters or other processes that could cause radioactive material to seep into the surrounding environment, especially ground water. This final storage need is a massive headache worldwide. An example is the German Gorleben final repository site. It’s been the scene of protests for decades, preventing any further storage of waste on the site.

There are a handful of cases where the first two stages have been completed, typically over periods of ten years. But completing the final storage phase of nuclear waste hasn’t been achieved for any former plants. Their most hazardous waste is still in temporary storage, sometimes even on site………

February 10, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, decommission reactor, Reference | Leave a comment

The Era of Nuclear Decommissioning

Nuclear power in crisis: we are entering the Era of Nuclear Decommissioning, Energy Post,  by Jim Green  “…………The Era of Nuclear Decommissioning     The ageing of the global reactor fleet isn’t yet a crisis for the industry, but it is heading that way. In many countries with nuclear power, the prospects for new reactors are dim and rear-guard battles are being fought to extend the lifespans of ageing reactors that are approaching or past their design date.

Perhaps the best characterisation of the global nuclear industry is that a new era is approaching ‒ the Era of Nuclear Decommissioning ‒ following on from its growth spurt from the 1960s to the ’90s then 20 years of stagnation.

The Era of Nuclear Decommissioning will entail:

  • A slow decline in the number of operating reactors.
  • An increasingly unreliable and accident-prone reactor fleet as ageing sets in.
  • Countless battles over lifespan extensions for ageing reactors.
  • An internationalisation of anti-nuclear opposition as neighbouring countries object to the continued operation of ageing reactors (international opposition to Belgium’s ageing reactors is a case in point ‒ and there are numerous other examples).
  • Battles over and problems with decommissioning projects (e.g. the UK government’s £100+ million settlement over a botched decommissioning tendering process).
  • Battles over taxpayer bailout proposals for companies and utilities that haven’t set aside adequate funds for decommissioning and nuclear waste management and disposal. (According to Nuclear Energy Insider, European nuclear utilities face “significant and urgent challenges” with over a third of the continent’s nuclear plants to be shut down by 2025, and utilities facing a €118 billion shortfall in decommissioning and waste management funds.)
  • Battles over proposals to impose nuclear waste repositories and stores on unwilling or divided communities.

The Era of Nuclear Decommissioning will be characterised by escalating battles (and escalating sticker shock) over lifespan extensions, decommissioning and nuclear waste management. In those circumstances, it will become even more difficult than it currently is for the industry to pursue new reactor projects. A feedback loop could take hold and then the nuclear industry will be well and truly in crisis ‒ if it isn’t already.

Editor’s Note

Dr Jim Green is the editor of the Nuclear Monitor newsletter, where a longer version of this article was originally published.


February 2, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, decommission reactor, Reference | Leave a comment

Not easy, nor cheap, to shut down South Africa’s Koeberg nuclear plant

The Conversation 25th Jan 2018, Why decommissioning South Africa’s Koeberg nuclear plant won’t be easy.
Koeberg has two units, each generating 930 MW, which contribute about 4% of
South Africa’s power capacity. They were built by French developer
Framatome, now called Areva.

Researchers in France, Germany and the UK have
calculated widely different costs for nuclear cleanups (including waste
disposal) in their countries. The potential cost of decommissioning a site
comparable to Koeberg according to the French costing model would be R8.4
billion. Some analysts say this is unrealistically low. The German model
puts the number at around R39 billion and the UK model at R76 billion.

January 27, 2018 Posted by | decommission reactor, South Africa | Leave a comment

France’s costly and unsatisfactory efforts at dismantling nuclear reactors

Romandie 12th Jan 2018 [Machine Translation] Dismantling: in France, nuclear country, the task remains immense. EDF may well show international ambitions in terms of nuclear dismantling, the industry still has to prove itself in France, the world’s second largest producer of nuclear electricity, where the task remains immense and the delays numerous.

“We dismantle nine reactors in France We consider that our know-how can put us in a very good position to win real market share internationally,” assured AFP on Wednesday Sylvain Granger director of deconstruction projects at EDF. An ambition
“staggering” for Barbara Romagnan, former PS MP, author of a parliamentary report that highlighted in early 2017 the “underrated” costs and growing delays of these projects.

“None of these French reactors has yet been totally dismantled, even though they were closed between 1985 and 1997,”
she argues. Elsewhere in the world, seventeen reactor vessels (more than 100 MW) have been dismantled in the United States, Germany and Spain, according to the Institute for Radiation Protection and Safety (IRSN).

In Chooz, EDF’s most advanced site, located in the Ardennes, the dismantling of the tank, the ultimate and most delicate stage, began in 2017. But the cutting of the internal components of the tank was suspended after the contamination. in June, a Swedish employee from Westinghouse, to whom EDF subcontracted this operation, according to the French company. EDF
estimates at 79 billion euros the cost of dismantling all its reactors in France (including 18.5 billion spent fuel management), said Thursday the company that spoke in 2000 of 16 billion euros.

January 15, 2018 Posted by | decommission reactor, France | 1 Comment

Radiation problem so serious that Hanford Plutonium Plant demolition has been stopped

Regulators to DOE: No more Hanford demolition until we say it’s safe, BY ANNETTE CARY,, January 11, 2018, Hanford regulators have ordered the Department of Energy not to restart demolition of the nuclear reservation’s highly radioactively contaminated Plutonium Finishing Plant until regulators agree the work can be done safely.


January 13, 2018 Posted by | decommission reactor, incidents, USA | Leave a comment

South Korea hopes to make a profitable industry out of nuclear decommissioning

S. Korea strives to build up nuclear decommissioning industry, By Kim Eun-jung SEOUL, Dec. 8 (Yonhap) — South Korea will ramp up efforts to develop technologies related to nuclear decommissioning as the country’s oldest reactor is undergoing the lengthy, costly process of being dismantled, the energy ministry said Friday.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy launched a consultative body composed of state-run utilities, construction companies and research institutes to put concerted efforts toward developing the nation’s nuclear decommissioning industry,

The ministry said it aims to develop technologies needed to dismantle nuclear reactors by 2021 that will make such sites free of radioactive hazards and establish a research institute to pave the way for entering the global market by 2030…….

A total of 11 reactors will be retired one by one by 2030 as their operational life cycles expire as the government said it won’t extend their operation.

As part of the nuclear phase-out plan, the government is also pushing for an early closure of Wolsong-1, now the nation’s oldest operating reactor, as soon as possible.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), 34 nations have built 611 reactors and 449 were in operation as of April 2017. Among 160 reactors permanently shut down, the decommissioning process has been completed for 19.

December 9, 2017 Posted by | decommission reactor, South Korea | Leave a comment

Candu nuclear reactor to be buried.

Decommissioning of Candu protoype moves forward, WNN, 01 December 2017

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has extended the deadline for public comments on Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ (CNL) draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for decommissioning the country’s first ever nuclear power reactor by two weeks to 13 February. The Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) reactor was the prototype for the Candu reactor design……

CNL’s NPD Closure Project aims to safely carry out the decommissioning of the NPD facility and complete the closure of the site, using an in-situ approach. This would see the reactor systems and facility structure entombed in place using specially formulated grouts. The structure would then be capped with a reinforced concrete cap and covered with an engineered barrier. The decommissioned facility would be considered to be a licensed disposal facility under Canada’s Nuclear Safety and Control Act.

The CNSC is currently accepting public comments on CNL’s draft EIS for the project, which provides an analysis of potential environmental effects and measures to mitigate those impacts. The public comment period opened on 15 November and had originally been due to end on 29 January…..

December 2, 2017 Posted by | Canada, decommission reactor | Leave a comment

New decommissioning regulations released by USA’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Nuclear Regulatory Commission releases first step in new decommissioning regulations November 30, 2017 by Chris Galford The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently completed the regulatory basis it will use for the proposal of new decommissioning regulations for commercial nuclear power reactors next year. The NRC staff have determined that new regulations are necessary in a number of areas, including emergency preparedness, physical security, cyber security, drug and alcohol testing, training requirements for certified fuel handlers, decommissioning trust funds, financial protection requirements, indemnity agreements, and how the backfit rule is applied. Many of these revolve around the decommissioning process.

Not all of these require new rules, however. NRC staff has recommended that some are simply in need of updated guidance or inspection procedures. In the case of the management of spent fuel and environmental reporting, though, they have likewise recommended greater clarity among requirements. Staff in requirements, aging management of plant systems, structures, and components, as well as the active role state and local governments are expected to play in decommissioning scenarios, could all be affected.

This process of this new regulatory basis has been underway since November 2015, and the results are now publicly available.

December 1, 2017 Posted by | decommission reactor, USA | Leave a comment

Dounreay fast nuclear reactor’s dome to be demolished

BBC 14th Nov 2017, Permission has been sought for major changes to the Dounreay nuclear power
complex, including the demolition of its landmark dome structure. A
planning application has been submitted to Highland Council for the
dismantling of the site’s reactors.

The application covers other work,
including construction of new buildings to store low level radioactive
waste. The waste is currently held in pits that are at risk of being
exposed due to coastal erosion. Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL)
has estimated that this could take from 800 to 3,000 years to happen, with
the radioactive material then being washed out into the North Atlantic.

Thebuildings to be demolished include the Dounreay Fast Reactor’s exterior
superstructure, also known as the sphere and the golf ball. It is a
landmark feature of the nuclear site on the Caithness coast, near Thurso.
The dome, like many other structures at Dounreay, was built in the 1950s.

November 16, 2017 Posted by | decommission reactor, UK | Leave a comment

A drone for Dounreay

BBC 10th Nov 2017, A drone is being used at a Scottish nuclear site for work that can involve
a risk of injury and cost thousands of pounds to be done by people. The
camera-equipped unmanned aerial vehicle is being flown on inspections of
Dounreay’s highest structures. Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL)
said it carries out about 50 such inspections every year. The nuclear power
site on the north Caithness coast near Thurso is in the process of being

November 13, 2017 Posted by | decommission reactor, UK | Leave a comment

Cost of decommissioning Pilgrim nuclear power station – $25 million a year

$25 million a year decommissioning fee proposed for Pilgrim nuclear plant  Andy Metzger, State House News Service, Nov 6, 2017 BOSTON — Without sufficient funds for safely decommissioning the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, the state could be left holding the proverbial (glowing) bag once the plant ceases operations, environmental activists warned lawmakers Monday, asking them to impose a $25 million annual fee on the station if it misses deadlines.

The plant is set to close in a year and a half and its owner, Entergy, said the timetable for completing the decommissioning five years after closing is unrealistic.

“Physically it’s impossible to decommission in five years,” Tom Joyce, a lobbyist for Entergy, told the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. The fuel that was delivered to the power plant on the Plymouth coast about six months ago is “very hot and being used now to fuel the reactor and produce electricity, which will stay in the pool and can’t be touched for five years,” Joyce said.

Pilgrim went into operation in 1972, and it has been a source of major safety concern for residents of the South Shore and Cape Cod, especially after the meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, demonstrated the devastation that can follow a nuclear disaster……..

The plant, which is rated one notch above the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s ranking of unacceptable, is set to close at the end of May 2019, and federal regulators will oversee the decommissioning process.

Pilgrim has a fund to pay for decommissioning that Joyce said stands at around $1 billion and anti-Pilgrim activists said was recently priced at about $960 million. Activists say that amount won’t be enough to cover the cost of safely securing the spent fuel and other decommissioning responsibilities.

Decommissioning Vermont Yankee, a smaller plant, had an estimated cost of $1.23 billion, according to Claire Miller, a community organizer for Toxics Action Center.

“If there’s not enough money the reactor could be mothballed for 60 years, and during that time obviously the workforce would be reduced to a skeleton [crew], offsite emergency planning would be eliminated, and offsite environmental monitoring eliminated or reduced,” Miller told the committee. “If Entergy … skips town, we are left holding the bag, along with lots of radioactive waste.”

Legislation filed by Plymouth Republicans Sen. Vinny deMacedo and Rep. Mathew Muratore would establish a Nuclear Power Station Post-Closure Trust Fund financed with $25 million annual payments by any nuclear plant that is not completely decommissioned five years after it stops making electricity. Pilgrim is the only remaining nuclear plant in Massachusetts.

“This is a detriment to our community,” deMacedo told the committee about the soon-to-be shuttered plant……

November 8, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, decommission reactor, USA | Leave a comment

The global burden of nuclear decommissioning

TMR 3rd Nov 2017.Strict regulations pertaining to nuclear disaster are likely to have a core
impact on the growth of the global market for nuclear decommissioning
services, states TMR Research in a research report. The report has been
titled, “Nuclear Decommissioning Services Market – Global Industry
Analysis, Size, Share, Trends, Analysis, Growth, and Forecast 2017 –

Le Monde 4th Nov 2017, Europe faces the burden of nuclear decommissioning. In Germany and Italy,
as in France, the deconstruction of the reactors will spread over decades,
producing huge volumes of waste difficult to manage.

November 6, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, decommission reactor | Leave a comment

Kansai Electric Power Co. to permanently close 2 nuclear reactors in Fukui Prefecture

Oi nuclear reactors set to be decommissioned , Japan News , October 17, 2017 Kansai Electric Power Co. intends to decommission the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture when the plant reaches 40 years of service in 2019, it has been learned.

KEPCO made the decision because the distinctive structure of the reactors’ containment vessels would require massive spending to apply safety measures that would meet the new standards set after the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The power company is expected to make an official decision by the end of this year and submit an application to the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

Since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, decisions have been made to decommission six nuclear reactors, not counting those at the Fukushima No. 1 plant. The Oi reactors will be the first large-scale reactors, with a maximum output of over 1 million kilowatts, to be decommissioned……..

The deadline for the Nos. 1 and 2 Oi reactors to apply for an operating period extension is approaching in 2018. With work to improve safety likely being a difficult challenge, KEPCO has no prospect of cutting back on the cost, which is expected to be over ¥100 billion. The company therefore gave up on restarting the reactors.

Tens of billions of yen are expected to be spent over 30 years to complete the decommissioning of the reactors, but that is still much cheaper than restarting them. …..

October 18, 2017 Posted by | decommission reactor, Japan | Leave a comment

Britain’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) likely to create a new agency, after cancelling Cavendish Fluor Partnership

FT 15th Oct 2017, Decommissioning Britain’s first generation of atomic reactors is likely
to be brought back “in-house” by the UK nuclear clean-up agency after
the collapse of a £6.2bn outsourcing contract that exposed “fundamental
failures” at the organisation.

Ministers have been considering whether
the work, involving 12 Magnox nuclear plants and research sites, should be
offered to another private contractor or run directly by the Nuclear
Decommissioning Authority. A final decision has not yet been made but
industry figures with knowledge of the process said the most likely outcome
was for the NDA to create a new subsidiary to take control of the Magnox
clean-up programme.

Such an outcome would bring an end to an embarrassing
episode in which Greg Clark, business secretary, in March cancelled a deal
with Cavendish Fluor Partnership, a joint venture between UK-based Babcock
International and Fluor of the US, at a cost of £122m to British

October 16, 2017 Posted by | decommission reactor, UK | Leave a comment