By - Jim Vess

Nation’s oldest nuclear power plant to close, but total decommissioning will take 60 years

Energize Weekly, July 11, 2018

The Oyster Creek nuclear power plant, the oldest operating nuclear facility in the nation, will shut down in September and be decommissioned at a cost of $1.4 billion.

Oyster Creek began operations on Dec. 1, 1969, and is to close after more than 48 years on Sept. 17, 2018.

While the plant will shut down in the fall, the decommissioning will take 60 years, with the bulk of that time devoted to managing the plant’s spent fuel, according to a federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) report.

Exelon Corp., which operates Oyster Creek, along with 14 other nuclear power stations in five states, has already put aside $982.1 million for the decommissioning, according to the NRC. The bulk of the decommissioning costs, $1.1 billion, deals with handling radioactive materials.

“After the plant is shut down and defueled, the facility is placed in a safe, stable condition and maintained in that state (safe storage),” the NRC report said. “The facility is decontaminated and dismantled at the end of the storage period to levels that permit license termination.”

“The initial decommissioning activities to be performed after plant shutdown will entail preparing the plant for a period of safe-storage (also referred to as dormancy),” the NRC report said. “This will entail de-fueling the reactor and transferring the fuel into the spent fuel pool, draining of fluids and de-energizing systems, reconfiguring the electrical distribution, ventilation, heating, and fire protection systems, and minor deconstruction activities. Systems temporarily needed for continued operation of the spent fuel pool may be reconfigured for operational efficiency.”

During safe storage, a facility is left intact, though the fuel is removed from the reactor vessel and radioactive liquids are drained from systems and components and then processed, the NRC said. Keeping all the material onsite will allow it to decay to lower radioactive levels.

The facility can’t be completely removed until there is national repository for spent fuel. The NRC is considering applications for waste disposal facilities in Texas or New Mexico.

The NRC said analysis found that the environmental impacts of decommissioning the plant would be small.

About 84 employees will be cut while another 400 will stay on through decommissioning, plant spokeswoman Suzanne D’Ambrosio told The Asbury Park Press in an email.

Oyster Creek is located 60 miles east of Philadelphia in Ocean County, New Jersey. The plant produces 636 net megawatts of electricity at full power, enough electricity to supply 600,000 typical homes.

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