Anxiety about retirement—for aging nuclear power plants

April 3, 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: DIAMOND to tackle UK nuclear waste issues

More information: Article: Nuclear Retirement Anxiety

Related Stories

DIAMOND to tackle UK nuclear waste issues

May 1, 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

March 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 of nuclear power, ...

Recommended for you

Smart home heating and cooling

August 28, 2015

Smart temperature-control devices—such as thermostats that learn and adjust to pre-programmed temperatures—are poised to increase comfort and save energy in homes.

Smallest 3-D camera offers brain surgery innovation

August 28, 2015

To operate on the brain, doctors need to see fine details on a small scale. A tiny camera that could produce 3-D images from inside the brain would help surgeons see more intricacies of the tissue they are handling and lead ...

Team creates functional ultrathin solar cells

August 27, 2015

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers with Johannes Kepler University Linz in Austria has developed an ultrathin solar cell for use in lightweight and flexible applications. In their paper published in the journal Nature Materials, ...

Interactive tool lifts veil on the cost of nuclear energy

August 24, 2015

Despite the ever-changing landscape of energy economics, subject to the influence of new technologies and geopolitics, a new tool promises to root discussions about the cost of nuclear energy in hard evidence rather than ...

2 comments

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...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.