NUCLEAR POWER PLANT DISMANTLED
By LINDSEY GRUSON
Published: November 25, 1986
In the process, the Shippingport Atomic Power Station, the world's first commercial nuclear generating facility, has become a radioactive classroom, a demonstration of the technological and economic feasibility of what is sometimes called ''nuclear power's missing link.''
Disassembling the reactor is a milestone in the atomic age - ''the capstone of the nuclear fuel cycle,'' said Cynthia Pollock, a researcher for Worldwatch, a nonprofit institute that studies the use of resources and energy. ''Most people have never thought about the idea that nuclear plants wear out - far less that they're contaminated. You can't just let plants sit forever.''
When the work is finished, the plant's seven-acre site on the south bank of the Ohio River 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh is to be restored to a grassy knoll suitable for any purpose including, say, a playground or a school.
Bechtel International, the construction company, recently bid $104 million to disassemble a new, never used and therefore uncontaminated plant in Zwentendorf, Austria. Both critics and proponents of nuclear power acknowledge it will be much more expensive to take apart contaminated plants.
Many states have started pressing utilities to set aside millions of dollars to finance the dismantling of their plants. But how much the utilities should set aside and who should provide the money are hotly debated.
Utilities now have three options for retiring reactors: mothballing, entombing and dismantling. Non-nuclear power plants can be demolished as cheaply and easily as any other structure. But large portions of nuclear plants become contaminated by radioactivity, which lasts for centuries. They therefore require careful treatment, even after they are retired.
Mothballing involves removing the fuel as well as guarding the structures and monitoring radiation. Initially, it is quite cheap. Since the plant remains radioactive for centuries, however, the continuing security and monitoring could make it more expensive than the other options, according to a study by the Atomic Industrial Forum, a lobbying group for the industry. In addition, it just postpones dismantling until a later day.
Entombment entails removing the fuel and covering the structure in a thick mantle of concrete. This is the option selected by the Soviet Union for the reactor destroyed in the Chernobyl accident. Entombment has many of the same advantages as mothballing, but the process exposes more workers to radiation. Since the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not approved entombment as a long-term decommissioning option, it is a temporary solution.
Dismantling retired nuclear plants immediately eliminates the need for long-term security and maintenance and frees the site for other uses, possibly including new reactors to replace the worn-out ones.
On the other hand, dismantling is costly in the short run and involves the highest occupational exposure to radiation. Shippingport's interior walls, for instance, are covered with yellow stickers whose bright red propeller symbols denote danger from radiation.
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The $98 million (1985 estimate) cleanup of Shippingport has been used as an example of a successful reactor decommissioning by proponents of nuclear power. However, critics point out that Shippingport was smaller than most commercial nuclear power plants; most reactors in the United States are about 1,000 MWe, while Shippingport was only 60 MWe. -Wikipedia
"...... less than about 400MWe in the above study"
"I wonder how much of this is still true... - cacone"
- 439 MWe BWR, 1971
- 760 MWe BWR, 1974
- 760 MWe BWR, 1976
- 760 MWe BWR, 1978
- 760 MWe BWR, 1978
- 1067 MWe BWR, 1979
- 1067 MWe BWR, 1982
- 1067 MWe BWR, 1984
- 1067 MWe BWR, 1985
- 1067 MWe BWR, 1987