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: Software will cut millions from nuclear clean-up bill

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

A not-quite-random walk demystifies the algorithm

December 15, 2017

The algorithm is having a cultural moment. Originally a math and computer science term, algorithms are now used to account for everything from military drone strikes and financial market forecasts to Google search results.

US faces moment of truth on 'net neutrality'

December 14, 2017

The acrimonious battle over "net neutrality" in America comes to a head Thursday with a US agency set to vote to roll back rules enacted two years earlier aimed at preventing a "two-speed" internet.

FCC votes along party lines to end 'net neutrality' (Update)

December 14, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission repealed the Obama-era "net neutrality" rules Thursday, giving internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T a free hand to slow or block websites and apps as they see fit ...

The wet road to fast and stable batteries

December 14, 2017

An international team of scientists—including several researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory—has discovered an anode battery material with superfast charging and stable operation ...

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.