Nuclear services provider EnergySolutions supports allowing use of nuclear power plant decommissioning trust funds for certain operations even before the facility ceases operation, an executive said last week.
“We are very supportive of using the decommissioning funds early for legitimate decommissioning activities at nuclear power plants,” Daniel Shrum, senior vice president for regulatory affairs at the Salt Lake City-based company, said during a panel discussion at the Waste Management Symposia in Phoenix, Ariz.
Operators of U.S. nuclear facilities are required to establish trusts to pay the costs of taking a plant out of service and abating radiation levels to the point that the license can be terminated and the property released for restricted or unrestricted use. The funds generally accrue hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for the work.
Under existing federal regulations, licensees can initially withdraw no more than 3 percent of the trust for decommissioning planning, NRC spokesman David McIntyre said Tuesday by email. That can include work such as surveys to identify the location and extent of contaminated areas on the property. “Otherwise, they may not withdraw funds until after they certify permanent cessation of operations,” McIntyre wrote.
EnergySolutions has led or collaborated on a number of nuclear decommissioning projects in the United States and abroad. It is the parent company of the firms charged with decommissioning of the Zion nuclear power plant in Illinois and the La Crosse Boiling Water Reactor in Wisconsin. It has also teamed with AECOM on a $1 billion deal as general contractor for decommissioning the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in California.
While he did not cite specific pre-closure operations that might be funded through a decommissioning trust, Shrum made clear EnergySolutions supports something more than what is allowed by current rules.
“As long as the power plant does not reduce their ability to cover their liabilities, why not use those decommissioning funds now to support decommissioning of the things that can leave the facility,” he said. “There’s no reason for that type of material, particularly the large components, to be at the facility, let’s move it early, use those decommissioning funds. We’ve talked about this in the past, we’ll continue to talk about it, but I think it would be very helpful to streamlining the process.”
EnergySolutions this week did not provide more detail on its thinking regarding the timing for use of decommissioning trusts. Other players in the nuclear decommissioning sector, including AECOM and Orano (formerly AREVA), also largely remained mum.
“I wouldn’t say that that’s necessarily a bad idea, but it’s the accounting for the benefit to the decommissioning project of those early expenditures to really understand. That’s an interesting statement,” Scott State, CEO of decommissioning specialist NorthStar Government Services and radioactive waste disposal provider Waste Control Specialists, told RadWaste Monitor on the sidelines of the Waste Management Symposia.