Critics Question Plans For Nuclear Waste Storage At San Onofre Nuclear expert says it’s a “witches brew of radioactivity” 7 San Deiego By JW August , 30 Sept 16 The threat of a nuclear meltdown is no longer a concern at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station because it’s shut down.
A shuttered nuclear plant does present another potential threat to public safety, according to an editorial in the April 2016 edition of Scientific American Magazine. The article warns of a greater danger, and says “more threatening than a meltdown, it’s the steady accumulation of radioactive waste.”
The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station was permanently retired by its owners, Southern California Edison, SCE, and SDG&E in 2013. The plant’s operations left 3.6 million pounds of radioactive waste behind.
If all goes as planned that radioactive waste is headed to bluffs just north of the dead reactors above San Onofre State Beach. It will sit near Interstate 5 in Southern California between two major metropolitan areas, San Diego and Los Angeles, where 17 million people call home.
Fifty canisters of radioactive leftovers, from fuel burned before the plant closed, are already in storage on the plant’s property. It accounts for about 30 percent of the radioactive waste on site. In the spring of 2017, the remaining radioactive waste will begin to be moved out of the pools of cooling water where it is currently stored and into 100 stainless steel dry casks which will also be encased in a cement pad.
Daniel Hirsch, the Director of the Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy at UC Santa Cruz, said it is imperative the fuel rods be moved out of the pools and into dry casks as soon as possible.
“It is the most dangerous stuff on earth; a witches brew of radioactive material,” he said.
A fuel rod is a long zirconium metal tube containing pellets of fissionable material, which provide fuel for nuclear reactors.
“Those pools are so densely packed, that if you lose the coolant you could have a fire in them,” Hirsch said.
According to a report from Robert Alvarez, a former policy advisor to the U.S. Department of Energy, a pool fire would release more radioactivity than a reactor meltdown. Hirsch, a long-time critic of the industry told NBC 7 Investigates the clock is ticking, something the plant’s owners agree with.
The location of the waste storage is something the plant’s owners and nuclear waste critics do not agree with.
“They’re going to be stored on the beach in the worst possible location you can imagine,” Charles Langley, who opposes the storage plans at San Onofre, said. Langley tracks all things related to San Onofre and the nuclear waste storage plans for Public Watchdogs, a San Diego based non-profit website.
The proposed storage site is northwest of the plant’s units one and two; the two reactor domes that can be seen from the freeway.
Currently, the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is the largest privately-owned coastal nuclear storage site in the country. When compared to government owned sites, it’s the second largest in the country, behind the Hanford Site in Washington where the first plutonium reactor was built and the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan was created.
Langley said the location selected is all about money. “It’s the cheapest alternative,” he said. “It’s what’s best for the stockholders. It’s not what’s best for the people of Orange and San Diego County.”
SCE does not agree. Neither does the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NRC, and the California Coastal Commission, which both approved the Pacific coastline location.
It’s not a case of no risk, the utilities argue, but low risk.
In January, due to El Nino weather conditions, there was considerable erosion of the beaches and bluffs around the San Onofre plant, the same area where the canisters will be stored.
Nina Babiarz, a transportation consultant and former journalist, said the location for the nuclear waste storage is a poor one. “It’s on an earthquake fault in a tsunami zone,” she said. NBC 7 Investigates reviewed weather reports and found rising sea levels at and around the nuclear waste storage location could continue.
A Pacific Institute report on sea level rise, with contributions by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, found “flooding and erosion” risks will increase. According to the report, “in areas where the coast erodes easily, sea level rise will likely accelerate shoreline recession” and “may expose previously protected areas to flooding.” The United States Geological Service found the same dynamics: extreme bluff, cliff and beach erosion, accelerating over time.
The City of Del Mar, located 33 miles from San Onofre and with a similar coastline, did its own risk assessment of projected impact from sea level rise, storm surges and coastal flooding. In its assessment it describes the potential for extensive flooding and cliff collapses. …………http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Critics-Question-Plans-For-Nuclear-Waste-Storage-At-San-Onofre-395305981.html
Hinkley Point C developers face £7.2bn cleanup bill at end of nuclear plant’s life
French and Chinese developers will be the first nuclear operators in the UK that will have to pay to decommission the site, Guardian, Adam Vaughan, 30 Sept 16 , The French and Chinese companies that are to build the £18bn Hinkley Point C nuclear power station will have to pay up to £7.2bn to dismantle and clean it up.
Documents published yesterday reveal for the first time how much the developers, EDF and China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN), will have to pay to decommission the plant, beginning in 2083.
The new reactors in Somerset will be unique in British nuclear history, as they are the first for which the operator will have to pay to make good the site afterwards.
“Waste transfer contracts signed today mean that, for the first time in the UK, the full costs of decommissioning and waste management associated with the new power station are set aside during generation and are included in the price of the electricity,” EDF said in a statement.
Decommissioning costs ate up around half the budget for the now-disbanded department of energy and climate change, after the liabilities for cleaning up old nuclear plants were effectively nationalised in 2004 and 2005 when two companies faced financial problems.
The Hinkley Point C decommissioning costs are estimated at £5.9bn to £7.2bn, with the dismantling of the plant expected to begin in 2083. The government, EDF and CGN anticipate the winding up of the new reactors will continue well into the 22nd century. The plant is expected to be fully decommissioned “from 2138” when the final spent fuel is disposed of.
Experts said the cost estimate was likely to be on the low side. “The reality in terms of decommissioning is that it always costs more than people say,” said Dr Paul Dorfman, of the Energy Institute at University College London.
He claimed that the precedent of the government taking ownership of the liabilities of British Nuclear Fuels Limited and British Energy more than a decade ago showed that the government would be forced to shoulder the costs if Hinkley’s developers had a shortfall.
The body charged with dismantling 17 of Britain’s old nuclear power plants puts the cost of cleanup at £117bn over 100 years in its latest annual report, more than twice the cost estimated a decade ago. A large proportion of the cost is due to the complexity of Sellafield……..https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/30/hinkley-point-c-developers-face-72bn-cleanup-bill-at-end-of-nuclear-plants-life?CMP=twt_a-environment_b-gdneco&utm_content=buffer99004&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
JAPAN SIGNALS END FOR $10BN NUCLEAR PROTOTYPE, Eyewitness News, 30 Sept 16 Tokyo believes it would be difficult to gain public support to spend several hundreds of billion yen. Reuters |
TOKYO – Japan signalled on Wednesday it would scrap a costly prototype nuclear reactor that has operated for less than a year in more than two decades at a cost of 1 trillion yen (£7.6 billion).
Tokyo believes it would be difficult to gain public support to spend several hundreds of billion yen to upgrade the Monju facility, which has been plagued by accidents, missteps and falsification of documents.
There is also a strong anti-nuclear sentiment in Japan in reaction to the 2011 Fukushima atomic disaster and calls to decommission Monju have been growing in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, with scant results from using around 20 billion yen of public money a year for maintenance alone.
Monju was designed to burn plutonium from spent fuel at conventional reactors to create more fuel than it consumes…….A formal decision to decommission Monju is likely to be made by the end of the year, government officials said. http://ewn.co.za/2016/09/30/Japan-signals-end-for-10-billion-nuclear-prototype
Nuclear liabilities of the largest eight nuclear plant operators in Europe totaled €100bn at the end of last year, representing around 22 per cent of their aggregate debt, according to credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s.
Operators are legally responsible for decommissioning nuclear power plants, a process which can take several decades to implement, meaning the associated costs are high. Europe’s main nuclear operators include France’s EDF, Germany’s E.ON and RWE. They are legally responsible for decommissioning nuclear power plants, a process which can take several decades to implement, meaning the associated costs are high.
While the analysis by S&P treats nuclear liabilities as debt-like obligations, it recognises that several features differentiate them from traditional debt. But given the size of the liabilities against a company’s debt, they can impact a company’s credit metrics, and their credit rating.
The report noted that a company’s nuclear provisions are difficult to quantify, as well as cross compare, because accounting methods vary between different countries.
It also foresees many operational challenges ahead, including a reality check on costs and execution capabilities.
EU auditor sees nuclear decommissioning funds shortfall, Reuters, By Alissa de Carbonnel, 20 Sept 16, | BRUSSELS European Union plans for financing the decommissioning of nuclear plants in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia are inadequate and more resources need to be put aside, the European Court of Auditors said in a report.
The report criticizing costly delays and warning of technical hurdles ahead shines a spotlight on the challenges facing Germany and other nations within the bloc that are planning to retire their nuclear reactors.
The EU’s spending watchdog said the estimated cost of decommissioning the three Soviet-era plants closed more than a decade ago had risen 40 percent since 2010 to at least 5.7 billion euros ($6.4 billion) by 2015. That figure doubles if the cost of disposing spent fuel once and for all is included.
The EU auditors said while the bloc’s budget covered the vast majority of the costs of shutting down the reactors in the three member states, significant funding was still needed to take the plants offline completely.
They said the reactor buildings at Bulgaria’s Kozloduy, Lithuania’s Ignalina and Slovakia’s Bohunice had yet to be dismantled and no solution had been found for the disposal of spent nuclear fuel……..
The only repository for spent fuel being dug deep underground in Europe has been under construction in Finland for nearly 40 years and won’t be ready until after 2020…….
A working paper by the European Commission, seen by Reuters in February, showed the bloc was short of more than 118 billion euros needed to dismantle its nuclear plants. ($1 = 0.8945 euros)(Editing by David Clarke) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-nuclearpower-idUSKCN11Q12A
Future nuclear supply chain worth billions, report finds, WNN 14 September 2016 “……..The market for decommissioning is also substantial, with decommissioning work on projects involving immediate dismantling by 2035 potentially worth up to $111 billion. This includes at least $12.4 billion as the estimated cost for cleaning up the Fukushima Daiichi site, and at least $24.2 billion for decommissioning as Germany moves to phase out its nuclear power plants.
Eleven consolidated technology vendors from Canada, China, France, India, Japan, Russia and the USA today offer their services across much of the nuclear fuel cycle, and other significant technology vendors – such as BWX Technologies, Doosan and OMZ-Skoda – are internationally active. Each has built up a supply chain that is increasingly global in scope, and the leading vendors are, for the most part, internationally diversified in terms of their corporate make-up and supplier base…..http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Future-nuclear-supply-chain-worth-billions-report-finds-1509167.html
US operators urged to decommission immediately to prevent cost hikes, Nuclear Energy Insider, Sep 7, 2016 Nuclear plant operators should start decommissioning activities of shutdown reactors as early as possible as the deferral of decontamination and dismantling (D&D) exposes operators to delay-related costs, investment risks and loss of crucial expertise as workers leave the industry, Geoffrey Rothwell, Principal Economist at the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency, told Nuclear Energy Insider.
There are currently 17 U.S. nuclear power plants being decommissioned and this will soon increase following a recent spate of plant closure announcements due to sustained low power prices.
Operators have announced the early closures of California’s Diabolo Canyon, Nebraska’s Fort Calhoun and Illinois’ Clinton and Quad Cities plants in recent months as low gas prices, rising renewable energy capacity and energy efficiency measures pressure electricity prices.
The majority of current U.S. decommissioning projects are being carried out under the deferred “SAFSTOR” method of deferred decontamination, but this process incurs the risk of cost hikes, Rothwell said.
U.S. operators build up nuclear decommissioning trust funds (DTFs) based on estimated costs but data from completed projects shows the actual cost of decommissioning has varied substantially, as operators have faced fresh site-specific challenges and regulation which can differ between states.
The variance in costs of three completed ‘immediate’ D&D projects was highlighted earlier this year in a report by the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), co-authored by Rothwell, which cited figures from a Pacific Northwest National Laboratories [PNNL] study.
The chart below shows actual costs for the Haddam Neck, Main Yankee and Trojan plants, laid out alongside estimated costs for 14 other reactors, showed large differences in spending on Project Management, Decontamination and Dismantling (D&D) and Waste Management.
Project management costs tend to be a function of the duration of D&D activities, rather than plant size and this is highlighted by the data from completed projects, Rothwell noted.
Portland General Electric (PGE), licensee of the 1.2 GW Trojan plant, decided to perform the decommissioning of the plant itself and conducted the project efficiently and without major changes or setbacks.
In comparison, the licensees for the 582 MW Haddam Neck plant in Connecticut and the 900 MW Maine Yankee plant chose to contract the D&D work to a decommissioning operations contractor (DOC) and then later in the process they chose to resume execution of decommissioning activities themselves.
In both cases, the management changes led to complications and delays and escalated costs, NEA said in its report.
A major advantage of carrying out D&D activities immediately is that current operations staff have in-depth knowledge of plant specifics, including previous incidents and undocumented facility detail, which avoids unnecessary work-arounds, Rothwell said.
“The maintenance crew have all sorts of implicit, tacit knowledge…If you wait for 60 years they are all gone,” he said.
Actual D&D costs have varied substantially as a lack of identical reference projects has meant operators have had to perform “first of a kind” operations such as the time-consuming task of dismantling main reactor components, Rothwell said.
“It’s cutting up the reactor and the steam generator, these are big pieces of equipment and we are just learning how to do this,” Rothwell said.
PG&E was able to limit the D&D costs for its Trojan plant through its access to the U.S. Ecology low-level waste facility at Hanford, Washington. PG&E was permitted to ship reactor internals to the Hanford facility as one package and avoid some of the on-site cutting-up of components.
At Haddam Neck, the segmentation of the internals proved challenging and took approximately 29 months, according to NEA’s report. Regulations also required the operator to store the internals on-site at the ISFSI.
The duration of D&D activities at Haddam Neck exceeded original estimates, as did the total radiation exposure accrued during the operations, NEA said.
“Decontamination of exposed faces of buildings and foundations were also extensive tasks,” it said.
The results of an environmental survey at the Trojan plant site indicated no radioactivity had spread to the environment, including surface water and groundwater, which also limited costs.
By deferring D&D activities for a substantial time, operators raise the chance of chemical or radiation leaks spreading, which can require further D&D work and incur higher costs, Rothwell said.
According to the NEA’s report, waste management costs do not necessarily depend on the capacity of the plant.
“Waste costs appear to be more sensitive to the management strategies and solutions selected or assumed, for the specific plant, and the related unit costs individually applied. The accessibility of waste management routes can even determine the way the decommissioning of the reactor is undertaken,” NEA said.
PG&E’s ability to ship the reactor vessel for the Trojan plant as a single package reduced the volume of waste and the number of radioactive shipments, and also reduced personnel exposure. However, NEA noted that without regulatory changes, the single package approach will not be available to other commercial nuclear plant decommissioning projects in the US.
In contrast, waste management costs for Haddam Neck were driven up by high volumes of waste produced, “mostly attributable to the release criteria and clean-up levels adopted by the State of Connecticut,” the report said.
Regulatory risk is another reason to commence D&D immediately as regulation is more likely to increase if there is a long time period before SAFSTOR facilities are decommissioned, Rothwell said.
Operators choosing to defer D&D also face investment risks for DTFs, in addition to escalating cost estimates, Rothwell noted.
Rates of return for DTFs have been lower than expectations, and operators which have accelerated closure plans should leverage current staff expertise and optimize decommissioning schedules to allocate decommission fund portfolios so the “liquidity matches your plans,” he said…….http://analysis.nuclearenergyinsider.com/us-operators-urged-decommission-immediately-prevent-cost-hikes?utm_campaign=NEI+07SEP16+Newsletter+B&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Eloqua&elqTrackId=ce386029dbb04d9db19579ed2046a746&elq=f4dbaf77167c423b93658800346bc887&elqaid=22066&elqat=1&elqCampaignId=9714
‘Dead Plant Society’ lobby group booms as reactors close Hannah Northey, E&E reporter Greenwire: September 6, 2016 “……..Reactors are closing as nuclear utilities struggle to compete with cheap natural gas, low demand for power and no national energy policy. And when the behemoth nuclear plants close, the Dead Plant Society grows.
As the teacher played by Robin Williams in the movie famously tells his young students, “We are food for worms, lads. Because, believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold and die.”
The group of doomed-reactor owners has doubled from its original five members to 10 and now includes Exelon Corp., the nation’s largest nuclear utility.
Operators who climb aboard are eager to weigh in on a high-profile rulemaking at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for decommissioning reactors and to find solutions — on or off Capitol Hill — for growing amounts of radioactive waste piling up across the country, said Smith, the president of Governmental Strategies Inc.
Exelon came to the society five years ago. The nuclear giant is deactivating reactors — or is planning to do so — at three sites in Illinois and one in New Jersey, Smith said. Entergy Corp. signed after it bought the shuttered Big Rock Point nuclear power plant near Charlevoix, Mich. And Pacific Gas & Electric Co. was next when it decided to close the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors in California.
Following years would see Southern California Edison join with the closure of the San Onofre reactors in California and Duke Energy Corp. as it shuttered the Crystal River nuclear plant in Florida.
All told, the tight-knit club represents more than a dozen reactors that have been closed or are about to be snuffed out in eight states. And nuclear executives have warned that an additional 15 to 20 reactors could close in coming years.
Many of the companies are either suing the federal government or involved in legal settlements after the Department of Energy failed to uphold its 1980s agreements and take possession of spent reactor fuel destined for the stalled repository at Yucca Mountain, Nev. So far, DOE has paid out more than $5 billion, and the lawsuits are still mounting.
And like the industry implementing cost-cutting measures to keep reactors afloat, Smith said the Dead Plant Society is on a tight budget, spending under $160,000 a year on lobbying since its inception, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Working with Smith is Michael Callahan, president of CCMSC Corp. and a former NRC congressional affairs officer….
‘Real security and safety issues’
Smith isn’t thrilled about the group’s growth.
The former Hill staffer and Nuclear Energy Institute executive said he’d rather be promoting a growing industry, not burying cooling waste.
“I hope not to grow it; I don’t like being in the nuclear trash burial business,” said Smith, who worked for former Louisiana Sen. John Breaux (D), a former Entergy lobbyist. “I had a lot more fun when I was lobbying to get new plants up and running.”
Then again, most members of the Dead Plant Society would rather not belong to the group, either.
Owners of the three Yankee reactors in New England, for example, recently sued the federal government after DOE failed to pick up spent reactor fuel stored in concrete casks at the site of former reactors in Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts.
Connecticut Yankee Atomic Power Co., Maine Yankee Atomic Power Co. and Yankee Atomic Electric Co. said they existed as corporations only because DOE had failed to pick up the waste, forcing the companies to build, staff and oversee on-site storage. The court awarded the companies $76.8 million in damages.
Tim Smith, a lobbyist and president of Governmental Strategies Inc., has represented the Decommissioning Plant Coalition since 2001, better known in industry as the “Dead Plant Society.” Photo courtesy of Governmental Strategies Inc.
The dispute, like many others, stems from the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, which required DOE to remove spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste from reactors. The agency signed contracts with the companies to remove the waste by January 1998 and store it in a permanent repository, but the department failed to do so. The Obama administration later pulled support for building a waste repository under Yucca Mountain, forcing utilities across the nation to store spent nuclear fuel in wet pools or dry storage casks on-site……
DOE will see its legal problems grow should more reactors go dark.
The department could face between $29 billion and $50 billion in legal fees if it begins accepting waste by 2025, according to a recent study by the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. If the decadeslong debacle slips past that date, costs could continue to grow by $500 million a year, said Christina Simeone, the report’s author. There are currently 19 lawsuits pending in federal court, according to a DOE report.
But the real losers are the ratepayers and taxpayers who have paid for a repository and may not realize that radioactive waste may live in their communities for ages, long after a reactor is snuffed out, she said.
What’s more, federal funds to move the process forward are off-limits unless the law is changed, she added. The $34 billion Nuclear Waste Fund — a cache nuclear customers have fed over years — is untouchable under statute for repository-related activities, and DOE legal fees are taken out of a federal fund made up of taxpayers’ contributions, she said.
“I don’t think these communities realize that when these plants close, the waste is going to stay there,” Simeone said. “The plant may be remediated, but there’s a portion of the land that’s going to remain under license at the NRC and is going to store waste indefinitely. There are real security and safety issues.”……..
The commission’s work — slated to be complete by 2020 — has spurred passionate debate between the industry and host communities, public advocates and environmental groups over funding for multibillion-dollar cleanups. Central to those discussions is what happens to pools and casks full of radioactive waste, the sizes of security forces and evacuation zones, and what role the host communities play.
As it stands, there are no such federal rules for dead nuclear plants.
Instead, companies must seek “exemptions” from regulations for operating plants as they power down the units.
Smith said the Dead Plant Society is supporting the NRC’s work to streamline the process and make it transparent, adding that operators set aside money to ensure they can remove or reduce radiation from the former plant sites so the land can be released or repurposed — a process that can cost as much as $400 million……..
The Vermont Yankee decommissioning panel has said host communities — people living near the nuclear plant within the 10-mile evacuation zone — need a voice on par with industry. The group has called on the NRC to take a closer look at the effect on communities hit by the multimillion-dollar loss in tax revenues after reactors close.
In their comments to the NRC, neighbors of nuclear reactors are asking the agency to ensure that decommissioning funds aren’t used for lobbying or operating expenses, and not to reduce evacuation zones. ……http://www.eenews.net/stories/1060042350
Decommissioning costs: A blind spot in the nuclear power debate In nuclear policy, too little thought is given to the considerable costs of storing radioactive waste on site, Utility Dive By Christina Simeone | August 30, 2016 With over 10 GW of nuclear capacity at risk for premature retirement – defined as retirement before license expiration – many states are considering subsidy policies to keep these economically struggling reactors operating.
Arguments for subsidies focus on protecting local jobs, keeping low-cost baseload power, maintaining reliability, and preserving the zero-carbon resources needed to address climate change. Opponents argue that out-of-market subsidies distort competitive markets and amount to ratepayer bailouts of uneconomic generation.
Absent from the debate, however, is a focus on what happens to nuclear power plants when they retire and decommission. Specifically, how Americans like you and I will continue to pay more and be subjected to greater risks as nuclear power plants are converted to interim waste storage facilities.
This is the focus of a new report from the University of Pennsylvania’s Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, entitled “Nuclear Decommissioning: Paying More for Greater, Uncompensated Risks.”
Let me explain.
When most nuclear power plants were built, the expectation was spent fuel waste would either be reprocessed (for most plants built before 1977) or the government would take custody of the waste for permanent disposal, per the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act. Licensees that built the reactors were also required to establish financial mechanisms – such as trust funds – to ensure availability of funds to decontaminate equipment and decommission the plant site.
The Nuclear Waste Policy Act established a per-kilowatt-hour fee on nuclear power production that Licensees would pay in exchange for a contractual agreement committing the federal government to take custody of the waste – beginning in 1998 – for permanent geologic disposal. Licensees would recover these fees from electricity ratepayers that enjoyed low cost, baseload nuclear power.
In 1998, the federal government was not prepared to accept the waste. To date, the government has spent more than $7.5 billion to study the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada for geologic disposal, but political opposition from within that state killed the project. There are currently no plans underway to build a geologic disposal repository.
Meanwhile, there are over $34 billion in ratepayer funds sitting in a restricted government account that by law can only be spent on activities related to the geologic disposal site. (The ratepayer fee was suspended in 2014, a few years after the Yucca Mountain project was terminated.)
In the interim, nuclear reactor Licensees have been forced to make significant capital investments to expand their ability to store spent fuel on site at power plants. Licensees sued the federal government for financial damages caused by the government’s failure to accept nuclear waste for disposal, and the Licensees won.
The federal government is therefore using taxpayer money to pay back the Licensee’s costs of interim waste storage. As of 2015, more than $5 billion of taxpayer dollars were paid to reactor Licensees. The total cost of damages is estimated to range from $29 billion to $50 billion if the government begins to accept waste in 10 years. If this date slides, government liabilities increase by $500 million per year.
So today, all 100 operating nuclear power reactors are storing waste on site in wet and/or dry storage. When a full plant retires, the entire site cannot be decommissioned, because a portion of the site must continue to store waste.
With this background in mind, it is important that policymakers consider the following facts when contemplating the fate of struggling nuclear power facilities:
- Distributed, interim (if not perpetual) storage of spent fuel and high level radioactive waste is less safe and less secure than permanent geologic disposal, according to the IAEA.
- Costs of interim storage have been and will continue to be paid by taxpayers, and these costs will accumulate indefinitely. Meanwhile, there is no refund provided to the ratepayers who paid to have nuclear waste removed from their neighborhoods and into a permanent geologic disposal facility. Many Americans are paying twice for nuclear waste management.
- Communities hosting nuclear power facilities – that include ratepayers and taxpayers – are not being compensated for the increased risks of perpetually storing high level radioactive waste. And, when a plant or reactor retires, these communities are also losing the benefits of nuclear power.
An additional concern is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s formula for establishing upfront decontamination costs for reactor specific funds has widely been criticized to understate costs. When a reactor retires prematurely, these funds have less time to appreciate and may require additional financial guarantees from the Licensee. More research is needed to understand the ability of owners of at-risk generation to provide such guarantees, if needed……http://www.utilitydive.com/news/decommissioning-costs-a-blind-spot-in-the-nuclear-power-debate/425415/
- Mon, Sep 5, 2016
Coolant removed from Dounreay Fast Reactor, WNN 05 August 2016 A ten-year process to remove 68 tonnes of highly-radioactive liquid metal coolant from the primary circuit of the UK’s Dounreay Fast Reactor (DFR) has now been completed, marking a major milestone in its decommissioning.
Dounreay’s experimental fast breeder reactor, housed inside a steel sphere, led British nuclear R&D during the 1950s and 60s. It became the world’s first fast reactor to provide electricity to a national grid in 1962…..Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL) announced today that some 68 tonnes of the liquid metal coolant – a blend of sodium and potassium called NaK – have been removed from the primary circuit of the DFR and destroyed over a ten-year period.
Most of the NaK had been removed by 2012, since when work has been under way to remove the last of the coolant from the difficult to access pipework and base of the structure…….
DSRL said the destruction of the DFR’s liquid metal coolant has removed “one of the highest hazards remaining in the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) estate”.
NDA chief operating officer Pete Lutwyche said, “The difficulty of this task can’t be understated, and I welcome the news that this work is complete. Everyone involved should be proud of their achievement.”
The focus of decommissioning work at the DFR will now be the removal of some 1000 breeder elements that remain in the reactor vessel, DSRL said. This must be completed before cleaning and removal of the reactor and its nine kilometres of cooling pipework. http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/WR-Coolant-removed-from-Dounreay-Fast-Reactor-0508164.html
The French state-controlled utility is in the process of dismantling nine reactors and has 58 others in operation, supplying France with about 75 percent of its energy needs.
Worldwide, 110 reactors have been halted and will need to be safely dismantled, EDF executives said, adding that the company has a team of 800 experts in the complex process.
“Nuclear decommissioning is a very important market with opportunities for the international and local nuclear sector,” Dominique Miniere, executive director for EDF’s nuclear and thermal plants, told journalists in Paris……
Based on the completed decommissioning of reactors in the United States, EDF estimates that it will cost about 400 million euros to dismantle a 900 megawatt pressurised water reactor — a process that could take up to 15 years.
The company’s first dismantling of a nuclear reactor in France — the Chooz A reactor that ceased operating in 1991 — is expected to be completed in 2022. ($1 = 0.8974 euros) (Editing by David Goodman) http://af.reuters.com/article/energyOilNews/idAFL8N19Q3N4
Who pays for Germany’s nuclear phase-out?,DW Hilke Fischer 1 July 16 Germany’s decision a few years ago to phase out nuclear power was an abrupt move. But it still remains unclear who foots the bill for shutting down the nation’s nuclear plants, as utilities seek damages from the state. Months after a Tsunami resulted in a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, Germany’s coalition government, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, decided to phase out nuclear power in the country.
Immediately after Fukushima, eight of 17 functioning nuclear plants were shut down, and the government’s decision established a timeline of taking the remaining plants offline by 2022.
Five years later, it’s gradually becoming clear how much this hasty exit could cost. Feeling dispossessed by the move, major utilities have filed a raft of lawsuits claiming damage payments from the government amounting to around 20 billion euros ($22.3 billion).
An eagerly awaited ruling
Complying with the government’s nuclear moratorium, Germany’s biggest energy provider Eon had to shut down its power plants Isar 1 and Unterweser. The company has therefore sued both the federal government as well as the state governments of Bavaria and Lower Saxony, seeking damage payments to the tune of around 380 million euros. The state court of Hanover is expected to deliver its ruling on the case on Monday, July 4………..
the energy companies take issue not only with the moratorium. They – RWE, Eon and Vattenfall – have also lodged numerous cases at the constitutional court in Karlsruhe against the government’s entire policy mandating an accelerated exit from nuclear power……..
State responsible for disposal costs?
Lodging cases before the constitutional court is a pressure tactic, said Green Party politician Oliver Krischer in March. “It’s to obtain concessions over the financing of nuclear waste disposal,” he remarked, pointing to the nuclear commission the government had set up to advise it on how to allocate the costs of storage and disposal of nuclear waste as well as the decommissioning of the power stations.
At the end of April, the commission presented its recommendations: The companies have to bear the costs of decommissioning the nuclear power plants. Furthermore, Eon, RWE, Vattenfall and EnBW are to pay 23.3 billion euros into a fund to manage the storage and disposal of nuclear waste.
In return, the state is to take on all the residual financial risks associated with radioactive waste management. A number of scientists and economists argue that the costs would be much higher than the 23.3 billion euros, and that the taxpayers would be on the hook for those cost overruns.
Germany’s parliament is expected to vote on the recommendations after the summer break, and should it approve them, they would come into force at the end of the year. http://www.dw.com/en/who-pays-for-germanys-nuclear-phase-out/a-19372796
The scary hidden cost of building a nuclear power station, http://www.rdm.co.za/business/2016/06/13/the-scary-hidden-cost-of-building-a-nuclear-power-station
Even assuming that SA can find the funds, we would do well to take into account the non-negotiable costs of decommissioning and waste management BRENDA MARTIN
13 JUNE 2016 Consider decommissioning costs before committing to new nuclear power investment
As South Africa prepares to invest in new nuclear power, we may do well to consider the other end of such investment: decommissioning. In the north of Germany, the Greifswald nuclear power plant (also known as Lubmin) has been undergoing the process of decommissioning since 1990. Before its closure, with a total planned capacity of 8 x 400MW plant built, but with only 5 reactors fuelled, Lubmin was to be the largest nuclear power station in East Germany prior to reunification. The reactors were of the VVER-440/V-230 type, or so-called second generation of Soviet-design. When it is concluded, the full process of decommissioning at Lubmin will have taken 30 years from first shutdown. In 1990 the company responsible for decommisioning this 8 x 400MW nuclear power plant, Energiewerke Nord, estimated a cost of half a billion DM per unit. Later this estimate was adjusted to 3.2 billion/unit. Today 4.1 billion/unit is a conservative final estimate (Energiewerke Nord, 2016).
More recently, early in 2012, following the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, the German government announced the immediate withdrawal of the operating licenses of eight German nuclear power plants and revived its plans to phase out nuclear power — by 2022. As this process unfolds, it will be possible to move beyond speculation, to actual data on costs, process and skills required for decommissioning.
What is involved in decommissioning a nuclear power plant?
Nuclear decommissioning is the process whereby a nuclear power plant site as a whole is dismantled to the point that it no longer requires measures for radiation protection to be applied. It is both an administrative and a technical process, including clean-up of all radioactive materials and then progressive demolition of the plant. Once a facility is fully decommissioned it should present no danger of radiation exposure. After a facility has been completely decommissioned, it is released from regulatory control and the plant licensee is no longer responsible for its safety.
The costs of decommissioning are spread over the lifetime of a facility and given that most nuclear power plants operate for over 40 years, funds need to be saved in a decommissioning fund to ensure that future costs are provided for.
What are the current estimates for nuclear power plant decommissioning?
This year, on April 28, an independent commission appointed by the German government (Kommission zur Überprüfung des Kernenergieausstiegs, KFK) presented its recommendations to the Ministry of Economics and Energy. The commission recommended that reactor owners — EnBW, EOn, RWE and Vattenfall — pay an initial sum of €23.3-billion ($26.4-billion) over the next few years, into a state-owned fund set up to cover the costs of decommissioning of the plants and managing radioactive waste. This sum includes a “risk premium” of around 35% to close the gap between provisions and actual costs.
According to the ministry, there will be approximately 10 500 tonnes of used fuel from 23 nuclear power plants, which will need to be stored in about 1 100 containers. A further 300 containers of high- and intermediate-level waste are also expected from the reprocessing of used fuel, as well as 500 containers of used fuel from research and demonstration reactors. In addition, some 600 000 cubic meters of low- and intermediate-level waste will need to be disposed of, including waste from industry, medicine and research.
Just before KFK started its work in October 2015, a study conducted by German audit firm Warth & Klein Grant Thornton for the Ministry of Economics and Energy had estimated the following costs for decommissioning 23 nuclear power plants, in 2014 money i.e. the cost if plants were to be decommissioned in 2014:
- Closure and decommissioning: €19.7-billion
- Containers, transport: €9.9-billon
- Intermediate storage: €5.8-billion
- Final low heat waste storage: €3.75-billion
- Final high active waste storage: €8.3-billion
i.e. a total of €47.5-billion.
However, decommissioning of all of Germany’s 23 nuclear power plants will not be undertaken at the same time. Most costs will be incurred in the future. Annexure 9 of the Warth & Klein Grant Thornton report provides an estimate of likely decommissioning costs when taking into account projected interest rate and inflation scenarios, as well as various likely nuclear-specific cost increases. Their conclusion? Total costs of decommissioning all nuclear power plants in Germany could reach up to €77.4-billion.
Given these emerging figures, even assuming that SA can find the necessary funds needed for new nuclear power investment, we would do well to take into account the increasingly known, non-negotiable related costs of decommissioning and waste management — of both old and new nuclear-related investment.
America’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission set to exempt nuclear corporations from safety costs and liabilities
US nuclear industry’s plan thanks to NRC: let taxpayers carry the can for closed power plants, Ecologist Linda Pentz Gunter13th May 2016 With five reactors closed in the last three years, the US nuclear industry is in shutdown mode, writes Linda Pentz Gunter – and that means big spending on decommissioning. But now the nuclear regulator is set to exempt owners from safety and emergency costs at their closed plants – allowing them to walk away from the costs and liabilities, and palm them onto taxpayers.
Aging and dangerous nuclear power plants are closing. This should be cause for celebration. We will all be safer now, right? Well, not exactly.
US nuclear power plant owners are currently pouring resources into efforts to circumvent the already virtually non-existent regulations for the dismantlement and decommissioning of permanently closed nuclear reactors.
And sad to say, many on the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the industry’s ever compliant lapdog, are trotting happily by their side.
There is an occasional lone critic. NRC Commissioner Jeff Baran, observed that the“NRC does not currently have regulations specifically tailored for this transition from operations to decommissioning. As a result, licensees with reactors transitioning to decommissioning routinely seek exemptions from many of the regulations applicable to operating reactors.”
The inevitable result is that reactor owners will successfully avoid spending money now on decommissioning as they seek to delay beginning the actual cleanup work for the next half century and maybe longer. Later, when it comes time to finish the job, the owners – and the money – could well be long gone.
US reactor owners rely on ‘decommissioning trust fund’ investments to pay for decommissioning activities. But these are failing to accrue adequate funds to do the job. Many of the trusts are incurring annual losses on their investments.
In fact, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found the NRC’s financing formula for decommissioning trust funds to be fundamentally flawed, resulting in the utilities ability to accrue only 57% to 75% of the needed funds……..http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2987679/us_nuclear_industrys_plan_thanks_to_nrc_let_taxpayers_carry_the_can_for_closed_power_plants.html
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