Exelon contracts at both ends of reactor life

13 December 2007

Exelon Nuclear has signed a contract which should see decommissioning of its shut down Zion power station completed a decade early. It has also signed a major order for heavy forgings and components for two new reactors it is considering building in Texas.


The company has contracted with EnergySolutions of Utah to dismantle the Zion plant by removing the two reactors, all structures and support buildings and debris, and return it to its original state. The station's licence and decommissioning funds will have to be transferred to EnergySolutions before it can take possession of the site to carry out the decommissioning work. This will require approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), expected during the second half of 2008. On completion of decommissioning, expected by 2018, EnergySolutions would return the property for Exelon for future use. Exelon has not yet determined what that use will be.


"This project launches our licence stewardship strategy whereby we conduct decommissioning and site restoration work as both owner and licensee," said EnergySolutions' CEO Steve Creamer. He noted that the program would use his company's "unique capabilities and facilities" to reduce project schedules, increase efficiencies and control project costs. EnergySolutions has its own low-level radioactive waste disposal facility in Utah.


The two 1098 MWe pressurized water reactors (PWRs) at the Zion site in Illinois started commercial operation in 1973 and 1974 respectively but were officially closed down in 1998. Under Exelon's previous plans, decontamination and dismantlement would not begin until 2013, with completion of decommissioning and the release of the site for other uses around the late 2020s and possibly as late as the 2050s.


Used fuel currently stored in the station's pool would be moved to a dry cask storage facility to be built at the site and would remain under Exelon's ownership and control until a federal used nuclear fuel repository is available.


GE-Hitachi order


On the same day that Exelon announced the contract for decommissioning one reactor, it signed a major order for components for a new plant with GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH). The agreement will see GEH supply the major components including ultra-large forgings, reactor pressure vessels and steam turbine generators for the two GEH Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactors (ESBWRs) Exelon is considering building in Texas.


The value of the order has not been disclosed, but GEH describe it as "multi-million dollar". Such large components have a long lead-time and even though Exelon is not yet committed to building the plants the procurement is a necessary step. "Signing this agreement with GEH helps us preserve the option to build a new nuclear plant should we decide to do so in the future," said Thomas O'Neill, Exelon Nuclear's vice president of new plant development.


Entergy Nuclear and Dominion Energy have also selected the ESBWR for potential new projects and signed component orders with GEH. The ESBWR is a so-called Generation III+ reactor which has evolved from earlier boiling water reactor (BWR) designs to have a simpler design and better fuel efficiency as well as being inherently safer with the incorporation of 'passive' safety features.


Further information


GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy


WNA's Advanced Nuclear Power Reactors information paper
 US Nuclear Power Industry information paper

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