The licences for the shut down Zion nuclear power plant are to be transferred from owner Exelon to decommissioning contractor Energy Solutions, signalling the formal start of decommissioning operations at the Illinois plant.
|Zion, by the Michigan shoreline (Image: Energy Solutions)
In a first-of-a-kind arrangement, Exelon has agreed to transfer the station's licence to decommissioning contractor Energy Solutions. The transfer, which has the approval of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), means that Energy Solutions will acquire all of the station's assets and then work as owner and licensee while it dismantles the plant. Energy Solutions will process and dispose of all the low-level radioactive waste from the site at its facility at Clive, Utah, and place Zion's used nuclear fuel in NRC-approved dry cask storage containers. The used fuel will remain Exelon's property and will remain on the site in a secure facility.
The licence transfer, due to take place on 1 September, will officially mark the start of the ten-year decommissioning program, described by Exelon as the largest nuclear plant dismantling ever undertaken in the USA. When the work is completed, responsibility for the site on the shore of Lake Michigan will revert to Exelon.
The licence transfer is a vital part of an accelerated cleanup program which should mean that the 200 acre site can be released for unrestricted use at least 12 years earlier than originally planned. "It is very important for Energy Solutions and Exelon to have agreed to close this transaction, so that decommissioning operations at the Zion Station can begin," said Energy Solutions president and CEO Val Christensen.
Zion's two pressurised water reactors (PWRs) were permanently shut down in 1998 when then-owner Commonwealth Edison decided it was not financially feasible to continue operating the plant. The units had both operated for just over 20 years. Their generators were converted to synchronous condensers used to provide stability to the Northeast Illinois grid. Exelon signed the decommissioning contract with EnergySolutions in 2007.
According to Exelon, the $1 billion Zion project also marks the beginning of a program that will see it invest a total of $4.6 billion in 101 individual projects at its Illinois nuclear plants over the next five years. Other projects include a total investment of $1.4 billion to carry out uprates at Exelon's six nuclear stations in the state, plus an additional $2.2 billion for upgrades and refuelling operations to 2015, not including the cost of the fuel itself.
"This is our own economic stimulus program for Illinois," Exelon Nuclear president and chief nuclear officer Michael Pacilio said, noting that the state is "going through tough economic times."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News