RadWaste Monitor Vol. 10 No. 5
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February 03, 2017

AREVA Forms Decommissioning Joint Venture With NorthStar

By Chris Schneidmiller

The U.S. branch of French multinational nuclear company AREVA and decommissioning specialist NorthStar on Wednesday announced the formation of a joint venture for cleanup of closed U.S. nuclear power facilities — beginning with plants now owned by major utility Entergy.

Accelerated Decommissioning Partners (ADP) is intended to offer the decommissioning and dismantlement expertise of both partner companies: the nuclear component dismantlement and spent fuel management experience of AREVA Nuclear Materials and the demolition and environmental remediation know-how of New York-based NorthStar.

The ADP partners separately have decommissioned over 10 nuclear reactor and laboratory sites licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NorthStar CEO Scott State said in a press release announcing the new joint venture.

In each case, ADP would acquire the plant, its spent fuel, and all other assets, including the decommissioning trust fund that would pay for remediation and elimination of the facility. The joint venture’s model means ADP would not have to subcontract work to other companies, and utilities would be freed of the burden of dealing with facilities that are no longer producing revenue, AREVA Nuclear Materials CEO Sam Shakir said Wednesday.

“This is an ongoing business. We are engaged with a number of U.S. power plant owners,” he told RadWaste Monitor. “We are moving ahead with one on the process to evaluate their plants, but we expect to do the same with a number of other plants in the very near future.”

Shakir confirmed that ADP is already in discussions with Entergy regarding decommissioning and dismantlement of multiple nuclear sites. The companies hope by the end of his year to seal a deal laying out the terms for transferring the facilities’ licenses and their spent fuel to ADP once they are shut down.

Entergy spokesman Jerry Nappi on Thursday said the sites in question are the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Massachusetts, which is scheduled to close in 2019, and the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in Michigan, scheduled for shutdown in 2018.

“Where we are now is we have an agreement to conduct due diligence and investigate, to the adequacy of the funds that exist, what is the final acceptable condition to leave these sites at,” Shakir said. “We’ve got to get through the licensing approval and define the terms and conditions for such a transfer.”

Terms for these and future potential acquisitions, such as whether ADP would pay money up front for the acquisition, remain to be established, Shakir said. Ultimately, ADP does not expect to have to fund the projects itself, but rather pay for operations via mandatory site decommissioning trust funds. Entergy currently has about $950 million in its Pilgrim trust fund and $410 million set aside for Palisades, Nappi said.

Each decommissioning project would be expected to take seven to 10 years, ending with complete eradication of the nuclear plant. Accelerated Decommissioning Partners would remain responsible for the spent fuel until such time as there is a more permanent national site for storage of commercial nuclear waste.

The new company would send teams of specialists in reactor segmentation, spent fuel transfer, demolition, and other operational areas to the site on a rotating basis as work progresses.

“The idea here is to deploy them in some sequence that would allow them to move from one site to another to carry out the same work,” Shakir said. “We believe that’s the way you capitalize on the experience of the team, you maintain their engagement and productivity to keep the costs down, and continuously utilize your assets, both in terms of human and capital, in the most effective way.”

While the on-site teams would include about 50 to 100 employees, additional work would be done off-site, such as design and production of spent fuel storage systems, Shakir said.

The formation of AREVA Nuclear Materials was announced earlier this month, part of a broader restructuring intended to turn around the parent company, which has suffered years of losses. The company plans to sell of its reactor business and to focus on its nuclear fuel cycle operations as what it is calling New AREVA (10 percent of which will be owned by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries under a deal announced Friday).

The five business segments housed in AREVA Nuclear Materials have roughly 560 employees and produced more than $900 million in revenue in 2016, the company said.

While Shakir did not discuss details of future opportunities for Accelerated Decommissioning Partners, a number of additional U.S. nuclear plants have closed or are scheduled for closure in coming years in the face of challenges including low natural gas prices. Entergy alone closed its Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in 2014 and has scheduled its Indian Point Energy Center in New York for shutdown by 2021.

Nappi said Entergy could not speculate on possible additional deals with Accelerated Decommissioning Partners.

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