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.



Decommissioning Webinar


When Nuclear Plants Close: Challenges for U.S. Reactor Decommissioning

On October 15, 2015, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Hudson River Sloop Clearwater hosted a forum at the New York Society for Ethical Culture on the welcome -- but daunting -- challenges of atomic reactor decommissioning. A long overdue wave of atomic reactor closures has begun, heralding the beginning of a wave of plant dismantlements, site radiological "clean-ups," and energy economy transitions.

The timely forum came in light of a record-breaking 2013-2014, with six atomic reactor closures across the U.S. and Canada, at: Gentilly Unit 2, Quebec; Kewaunee, WI; Crystal River, FL; San Onofre Units 2 & 3, CA; and Vermont Yankee. The conference took place just days after Entergy announced its plan to close Pilgrim in MA by 2019 at the latest, and perhaps as soon as 2017. Exelon also plans to close a reactor in 2019: Oyster Creek, NJ. And Entergy is expected to make an announcement on the future -- or lack thereof -- of its FitzPatrick reactor in upstate NY.

As David Lochbaum of UCS documented in his presentation (see below), some 26 atomic reactors have permanently shutdown over the past several decades across the U.S. They are now in various stages of decommissioning. However, most, to all, of the high-level radioactive waste generated at such shutdown reactors (including Big Rock Point, MI; Maine Yankee; Connecticut Yankee; Yankee Rowe, MA; etc.) remains stored on-site, in dry cask storage. The Zion Units 1 & 2 decommissioning, underway in northeast IL on the Lake Michigan shoreline, is the largest in U.S. history.

Curt Collier, Leader for Environmental Advocacy at the NY Society for Ethical Culture, welcomed a packed room. Katherine Kennedy, Director of NRDC's Energy & Transportation Program, gave the introduction.

Geoffrey Fettus, NRDC Senior Attorney, moderated the first panel, on "National Perspectives on Decommissioning." Featured speakers included:  

---Mycle Schneider, Paris-based International Consultant on Energy and Nuclear Policy, and Convening Lead Author of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR), on "The Prospects for U.S. Nuclear Retirements in the International Context";

---Gregory Jaczko, Former Chairman, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, on "Challenges Inherent in Sustainable, Durable Progress on Reactor Decommissioning";

---Peter Bradford, Former NRC Commissioner, and Former Chair of both the ME and NY Public Utility Commissions, on "State and Federal Roles in Decommissioning Policy: What They Are and What They Could Be".

---and John Sipos, Assistant Attorney General, NY Attorney General's Office, on "Challenges in New York from the Inidan Point, and Other, Reactors";

Manna Jo Greene, Environmental Director of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, moderated the second panel, on "State and Local Decommissioning Issues," with a focus on New York. Featured speakers included: 

---Deborah Katz, Executive Director, Citizen's Awareness Network, on the "Deregulation of Decommissioning";

---Tim Judson, Executive Director, Nuclear Information & Resource Service (NIRS), on "Decommissioning Risks and Opportunities for States and Local Communities";

---Paul Gallay, President, Hudson Riverkeeper, on "Perspectives on Indian Point";

---and David Lochbaum, Director, Nuclear Safety Project, Union of Concerned Scientists, on "Technical and Regulatory Concerns for Decommissioning" (Lochbaum was unfortunately unable to make it as planned; in his absence, Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps was honored to present the slideshow on Lochbaum's behalf).

A lively opened discussion followed, and Matthew McKinzie, NRDC's Nuclear Program Director, gave concluding remarks. 

The conference was made possible by the generous support of the Jack and Belle Alpern Foundation.

Beyond Nuclear's participation was made possible by the generous support of an anonymous donor.

See the event's program here.

The sponsors plan to make the video recording of the event available online in the near future, as well as all of the presentation power points. Beyond Nuclear will provide links on its website to those resources as soon as they are available.

In the meantime, please visit Beyond Nuclear's "Reactors Are Closing," as well as Decommissioning, website sub-sections, for more information.

In addition, see the NIRS Decommissioning website sub-section, for more information.


NRC "Way Too Cozy with Vermont's Nuclear Plant"

The Waterbury Record in Vermont has editorialized against Entergy Nuclear's raiding of the Vermont Yankee atomic reactor's decommissioning fund to inappropriately pay for high-level radioactive waste management. The editorial cheered the State of Vermont's lawsuit against the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for allowing this to happen, and urges the court of appeals to do the right thing.


Raided Palisades' decommissioning fund $100 million short of minimum dismantlement/clean-up price tag

Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor, located on the Lake Michigan shoreline in Covert, MIAs admitted by Entergy to NRC on March 30, 2015 (see page 17 & 18 on the PDF counter), the Palisades atomic reactor's (photo, left) decommissioning trust fund is $100 million short of the minimum total needed.

Palisades has in hand only $384 million, of the $485 million needed.

That $485 million price tag must be taken with a grain of salt, as a significant underestimate. Palisades has suffered decades of radioactive leaks -- as recently as March 19, 2015 (a 100 gallon "migration" of tritium from degraded steam generator tubes, ultimately into the environment). This lingering radioactive contamination will add substantially to Palisades' low-balled decommissioning price tag estimate.

What makes this decommissioning fund shortfall all the more objectionable is the fact that in 2007, the fund was raided by the previous owner, Consumers Energy, and Entergy, as part of the sales agreement. The Michigan Public Service Commission blessed this unacceptable raid. Around $100 million went into Consumers Energy's pockets. Around $100 million went into Entergy's pockets. And around $100 million was refunded to ratepayers -- apparently to "justify" the raid, and/or to quiet dissent.

But now ratepayers will get to pay back into the decommissioning trust fund, to compensate for the raid. And Entergy, as well as NRC, are justifying the continued operation of the dangerously age-degraded Palisades reactor, at least in part, on the need to rebuild the raided decommissioning fund!


Safe & Green Campaign's Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Resources

The Safe & Green Campaign in and around Brattelboro, Vermont has compiled Decommissioning Resources, in preparation for a Feb. 19th NRC meeting, as well as NRC's March 23rd deadline for public comment regarding Vermont Yankee's decommissioning.