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Decommissioning

Although it is imperative that we shut down nuclear plants, they remain dangerous, and expensive even when closed. Radioactive inventories remain present on the site and decommissioning costs have been skyrocketing, presenting the real danger that utilities will not be able to afford to properly shut down and clean up non-operating reactor sites.

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Friday
Jan262018

J.F. Lehman & Company takes over bankrupt Waste Control Specialists -- now in complete control of NorthStar decommissioning venture

J.F. Lehman & Company ("JFLCO") has acquired Waste Control Specialists, LLC (WCS), the company announced in a press release on Jan. 26, 2018.

A year ago, WCS, with complicity from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), was poised to enter into a licensing proceeding to construct and operate a so-called "centralized interim storage facility" (CISF) at its Andrews County, west Texas location. The CISF was proposed to store 40,000 metric tons of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel, about half of what currently exists in the country.

However, when the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) last June successfully blocked in court WCS's acquisition by rival EnergySolutions of Utah, WCS asked NRC to suspend its CISF licensing proceeding for lack of funds. DOJ argued that the takeover of WCS by EnergySolutions would have created a monopoly on "low-level" radioactive waste disposal in the U.S. The federal court in Delaware agreed.

It is unclear yet whether JFLCO's takeover of WCS will lead to the play button being pushed again on the CISF licensing proceeding.

WCS already operates a national so-called "low-level" radioactive waste dump for all categories, Class A, B, and C.

It has specialized over the years in accepting some of the most controversial and troublesome wastes to be had from across the U.S., including Belgian Congo K-65 ore wastes from the Manhattan Project (which were hauled down from Fernauld, Ohio), and potentially exploding barrels of military plutonium contaminated wastes from Los Alamos.

In addition, JFLCO also owns NorthStar, in which WCS was already a major partner. NorthStar would like to become the go-to company for decommissioning permanent shutdown nuclear power plants in the U.S. NorthStar has already made a major move to purchase the Vermont Yankee shutdown reactor from Entergy Nuclear. NorthStar is very likely also eyeing doing the same at soon-to-close Entergy reactors, such as Pilgrim in MA. At a public open house last year, a reactor operator at Palisades nuclear power plant in Michigan, also owned by Entergy, confirmed that NorthStar was also being looked to, to eventually decommission that one too -- a decision Entergy higher ups declined to confirm when directly asked.

In this way, both the "low-level" radioactive waste (LLRW) stream from decommissioning nuclear power plants, as well as the highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel (INF) from those and other atomic reactors, could be shipped to the TX/NM border. The LLRWs would be permanently buried at WCS. The INF would supposedly only be stored there, at the surface, on an "interim" basis. But this could easily last a century, if not continue indefinitely -- leading to the risk of WCS becoming a de facto permanent "parking lot dump."

The WCS site is either above, or very near to (and upstream of), the Ogallala Aquifer, North America's single largest. The Ogallala is a critical source of drinking and irrigation water for eight states on the High Plains, stretching from TX to SD. Thus, it is essential for the lives of millions of Americans and Native Americans over a very broad region. The radioactive waste dumping, and storage, at WCS, puts this vital fresh water supply at risk.

Thursday
Jun152017

Decommissioning is the time to do an "autopsy" while dismantling reactors to investigate residual safety margins at operating reactors 

Paul Gunter with Beyond Nuclear provided comments to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's proposed rulemaking for updating the agency's policy and regulations for decommissioning nuclear power stations.

Gunter's comments focused on why closed nuclear power stations should be required to undergo destructive examination and material testing of irreplaceable structures and components like concrete containments and the steel reactor pressure vessels to gain important insights into the residual safety margins in aging reactors that are still operating under license extension.

Tuesday
Jun132017

Comments on Nuclear Regulatory Commission Draft Regulatory Basis for Decommissioning Power Reactors

Beyond Nuclear joined a coalition of environmental groups to endorse Comments on Nuclear Regulatory Commission Draft Regulatory Basis for Decommissioning Power Reactors spearheaded by Citizens Awareness Network and Nuclear Information and Resource Service. Other endorsoing organizations included Cape Downwinders, Public Citizen, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Nuclear Energy Information Service, Vermont Citizens Action Network, and Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance.

Wednesday
Feb222017

How Much Money Palisades Has For Cleanup And Why It Matters

As reported by Rebecca Thiele of WMUK. Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps, a longtime watchdog on Palisades (as a board of directors member for Don't Waste Michigan, representing his hometown Kalamazoo chapter), is quoted several times in the interview.

Thursday
Nov172016

Feds sue proposed Vermont Yankee disposal company

As reported by VTDigger.

The U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit to block the merger of Waste Control Specialists, LLC of Andrews County, TX and EnergySolutions of Salt Lake City, UT is certainly relevant to Vermont Yankee decommissioning, as the article reports. WCS is proposed to become a partner in the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee, by acquiring ownership and an NRC-approved license transfer from current owner Entergy Nuclear.

But the merger would also impact the entire realm of radioactive waste management and disposal in the U.S. EnergySolutions' dumpsite in Clive, Tooele County, UT is a national dump for Class A radioactive waste -- the lowest category of so-called "low" level radioactive waste.

WCS's dump in Andrews, TX accepts Class A, Class B, and Class C radioactive wastes from any state in the union.

WCS has also applied to become a centralized interim storage site (a de facto permanent parking lot dump) for up to 40,000 metric tons of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel.