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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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Thursday
Nov012018

Nuclear Free Future: Vermont Yankee Entergy Sale = Consequences

Watch Beyond Nuclear's radioactive waste watchdog, Kevin Kamps, on Channel 17, TownMeeting Television, cable access is Burlington, VT. He was hosted by Margaret Harrington on her show, "Nuclear Free Future." Watch the 35-minute interview at this link.

 

Description

Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear talks with host Margaret Harrington about the consequences of the pending Vermont Yankee Entergy Nuclear Power Plant sale to Northstar. The US Regulatory Commission has approved the transfer of the license to the NY company, but the Vermont Public Utility Commission must rule on the sale before the deal can close. A Northstar accelerated decommissioning project could clean up the Vermont site in less than a decade. Kevin Kamps, the Radioactive Waste Watchdog for Beyond Nuclear, takes into account Northstar’s nuclear waste plans involving Waste Control Specialists and the insurance and financing for the job.

Wednesday
Aug012018

Holtec expands n-waste and new build business model with rapid decommissioning 

Every stage of the nuclear power industry is inherenty dangerous. So it is important to understood that decommissioning---dismantling---old radioactive nuclear reactors is not a benign process. Of all the links in the nuclear chain, however, decommissioning has the least environmental scrunity and regulatory oversight.  The public has no due process and very little transparency into the health, safety and environmental impacts. Quality control and quality assurances are critical agreeements for entrusting public health and safety while moving the radioactive corpus somewhere else.

The New Jersey-based company Holtec International has agreed to purchase three soon-to-close U.S. nuclear power stations to try out its new rapid decommissioning strategy. Pending U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approval, Chicago-based Exelon and New Orleans-based Entergy announced sale  agreements for the Oyster Creek (NJ), Pilgrim (MA) and Palisades (MI) nuclear power stations to a fledgling company, Comprehensive Decommissioning International (CDI), formed by the 2018 merger of parent companies Holtec International and SNC-Lavalin (SNCL). CDI is offering that its prompt decommissioning strategy for commercial power reactors and site restoration can be completed inside of 8 years. The expedited dismantlement requires added state and community scrutiny.

Holtec International won the NRC approval for the new decommissioning technology, “proto-prompt decommissioning in 2008. Holtec aims to accelerate the transfer of high-level nuclear waste (irradiated nuclear fuel assemblies) from onsite wet storage in pools into onsite Holtec dry cask storage canisters.  The technology credits the dry storage cask’s new fuel basket design of “an aluminum boron carbide metal matrix composite” with ten times more thermal efficient conductivity than stainless steel. The basket welds are said not to suffer heat and radiation distortion typically seen in conventional welds.  Holtec claims the new technology allows for “young and hot” nuclear fuel from recently closed reactors to be transferred from pools into dry cask storage canisters quicker and hasten the dismantling of the sites.

Holtec International’s rapid decommissioning strategy adds to its plan to send thousands of nuclear waste shipments onto the roads, rails and barges for dry cask transport to a proposed Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CIS). The CIS is being confronted by broad opposition at the Eddy-Lea [Counties] Energy Alliance's proposal to "park" 173,600 metric tons of irradiated nuclear fuel in casks in southeastern New Mexico. See Beyond Nuclear’s post on our website. Holtec has a long been subject to whistleblower concerns for cask quality control issues.  Serious questions remain including what happens in the event of a hot dry cask failure and radioactive breach on an open tarmac, what are the community emergency procedures and how is that radioactive waste going to be recontainerized?

Holtec and SNCL teamed up in 2017 in hopes to start building Holtec’s design for a small modular reactor design, the SMR-160. The SMR-160 is a 160-megawatt electric light water reactor fueled by low enriched uranium.  Using a single control room, the SMR-160 siting plan buries the multi-unit reactor complex deep underground near large populations along with onsite underground nuclear waste storage canisters. Holtec claims that the design’s passive safety features make their facility as benign as a “cotton mill or chocolate factory.” Small reactors have been around for awhile, well before the nuclear industry's "economy of scale" financial collapse. There were loads of safety and environmental problems then and now. Small reactors make more nuclear waste per megawatt hour, for example.

Decommissioning is a very important end-of-reactor-life cycle. Public vigilance is required to help make impacted communities aware of actions undertaken and consequences encountered at each phase of the decontamination, dismantlement and site restoration process. Examples of Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panels have an increasingly important role to play in providing the community education and transparency component where regulation and oversight have been withdrawn.

Wednesday
Aug012018

Palisades nuclear plant being sold as decommissioning approaches

As reported by MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette.

The article quotes Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps:

Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear said he has concerns about the planned sale, and questions the corporate character of Holtec. 

"We're very concerned about who this company is, for one thing," he said, noting that Beyond Nuclear has had concerns with the company in the past related to activities in the nuclear industry elsewhere."

He is concerned that Holtec will work to try to pocket as much of the Palisades decommissioning funds as possible, which have been set aside to fund the decommissioning process. He fears that an accelerated decommissioning will mean more exposure to workers, and more contamination left behind.

"How deep will the cleanup go? Inches or feet?" he said. "If they rush this job they could leave a lot of contamination behind."

Thursday
Jul052018

Decommissioning Nuclear Power Plants: What Congress, Federal Agencies and Communities Need to Know

See the EESI (Environmental and Energy Study Institute) Briefing Notice for the following event:

Monday, July 16 2018    |   2 PM – 3:30 PM

Room HC-8, U.S. Capitol Building

Please RSVP to expedite check-in: www.eesi.org/071618nuclear#rsvp

Live webcast will be streamed at: www.eesi.org/livecast

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) invites you to a briefing on the urgent need to safely decommission nuclear power plants, which are increasingly shutting down. The United States is facing a significant wave of nuclear plant closures for which it is unprepared. Most of the existing U.S. reactor fleet will inevitably close over the next two decades, as plants near the ends of their operational lifespans. Decommissioning is the process of dismantling the closed plant and securing or removing radioactive waste while lowering the site’s residual radioactivity to safer levels. Getting decommissioning right is critical to communities’ health and safety, while getting it wrong could pose an existential threat.

 

Leading scientists, policy experts, NGO advocates, and local elected officials with experience of decommissioning will speak at the briefing. It will cover the impacts of decommissioning, current decommissioning options, waste storage vs. transport, thorny unsolved problems and best practices, financing and liability, a just transition for communities and workers, how communities and states can and can’t weigh in on these issues, and how they should inform the fast-changing legislative and regulatory landscape. Briefers include:

 

  • ·       Mayor Al Hill, of Zion, Illinois, home of the decommissioned Zion Nuclear Power Station
  • ·       Robert Alvarez, Senior Scholar, Institute for Policy Studies; former Department of Energy Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary for National Security and the Environment
  • ·       Geoff Fettus, Senior Attorney for Energy & Transportation, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • ·       Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Specialist, Beyond Nuclear
  • ·       Bob Musil (moderator), President and CEO of the Rachel Carson Council; former Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility

More than 80 reactor communities, as well as countless communities along proposed radioactive waste transport routes in 75 percent of Congressional districts, will be profoundly affected by how decommissioning is handled. The potential for radiological contamination, accidents, and long-term environmental, public health and economic damage increases as plants are dismantled and radioactive materials are handled, moved and stored. Reactor communities risk becoming de facto stewards of stranded high-level nuclear waste, which poses local and regional threats. Yet,  in most cases, shipping the waste can pose even greater threats. Communities will have to deal with the economic impacts of the legacy of reactor sites that can never be fully decontaminated.

 

The existing regulatory and legislative framework around decommissioning nuclear plants is insufficient to handle these issues, and in any case it is changing rapidly as Congress considers pending legislation (HR 3053 is just one example) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission drafts new rules that will govern decommissioning and spent fuel disposition. The experts addressing this briefing have learned surprising lessons about decommissioning that Washington needs to hear as it makes key decisions the consequences of which we will live with for a long time to come.

 

This briefing is co-sponsored by Beyond Nuclear, Ecological Options Network, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition (IPSEC), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), Nuclear Resource and Information Service (NIRS), Riverkeeper, Safe Energy Rights Group, Unity for Clean Energy (U4CE), and others.

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.