Anxiety about retirement—for aging nuclear power plants

Apr 03, 2013

Mention "high costs," "financing" and "safety" in the same sentence as "commercial nuclear power plants," and most people think of the multi-billion-dollar construction or operational phase of these facilities, which provide 20 percent of the domestic electric supply. Those concerns, however, are now emerging as aging nuclear power plants reach retirement age, and electric utilities confront the task of deconstruction, or decommissioning, nuclear power stations. That's the topic of the cover story in the current edition of Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

In the article, Jeff Johnson, C&EN senior correspondent, explains that a wave of nuclear power station retirements may be on the horizon. The average age of the 104 nukes in the United States, for instance, is 34 years—only a few years short of and approaching their design life of 40 years. Almost 30 U.S. commercial and research reactors already have started decommissioning.

The article describes why decommissioning is a long, complex, costly process, with $400 million regarded as the bargain basement price tag for cleaning up a single reactor. It includes an informative sidebar, "Anatomy of a Decommissioning," describing why decommissioning is a big-ticket item, with special technologies and personnel needed for a safe retirement. Indeed, the coming wave of retirements likely will foster emergency of a new industry devoted to decommissioning.

Explore further: Engineering new vehicle powertrains

More information: Article: Nuclear Retirement Anxiety

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

DIAMOND to tackle UK nuclear waste issues

May 01, 2008

The long-term problem of how to manage and dispose of Britain’s nuclear waste is to be tackled by a UK consortium headed by the University of Leeds.

Nuclear will survive, because it has to: ANU professor

Mar 29, 2011

Japan relies on nuclear power for about 30% of its electricity. It has few natural resources and imports large quantities of coal, gas and oil at an ever increasing cost. Some Japanese people are not in favor ...

Recommended for you

Engineering new vehicle powertrains

11 hours ago

Car engines – whether driven by gasoline, diesel, or electricity – waste an abundance of energy. Researchers are working on ways to stem this wastefulness. Ultramodern test facilities are helping them ...

First self-contained step dimming LED tube

Sep 30, 2014

Samsung Electronics today introduced the industry's first AC Direct step-dimming LED linear replacement for T8 and T12 fluorescent tubes at the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) Convention ...

Battery system will be able to light 2,500 homes

Sep 30, 2014

One of the largest, most environmentally-friendly, battery-based energy storage systems in the nation will be installed at the University of California, San Diego the campus announced today (Sept. 29).

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

AzawakhUnleashed
not rated yet Apr 03, 2013
This is a non-issue. The price of retiring those plants is included in the price of the electricity. Isn't it ?
todric_koenig
not rated yet Apr 03, 2013
Years ago I was told that decommissioning costs are never considered until the very end of the equipment life; doing it at the beginning makes the power uneconomical. Taxpayers end up footing the bill, not the investors...