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Decommissioning in the United States: Past, Present and Future

[+] Author Affiliations
Jas S. Devgun

Sargent & Lundy LLC, Chicago, IL

Paper No. ICEM2009-16318, pp. 287-295; 9 pages
  • ASME 2009 12th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management
  • ASME 2009 12th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management, Volume 2
  • Liverpool, UK, October 11–15, 2009
  • Conference Sponsors: Nuclear Engineering Division and Environmental Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4408-3 | eISBN: 978-0-7918-3865-X
  • Copyright © 2009 by ASME


The experience related to decommissioning of nuclear facilities in the United States is very substantial and covers power reactors, research reactors, and many facilities in the Department of Energy complex. The focus of this paper however is on the commercial power plants. With 104 operating reactors, the U.S. fleet of civilian reactors is still the largest in the world. Nuclear power industry in the United States has undergone a dramatic upturn after decades of stalemate. One effect of this nuclear renaissance has been that the plans have changed for several reactors that were initially destined for decommissioning. Instead, the focus now is on relicensing of the reactors and on power uprates. In fact, after the peak period between 1987 and 1998, no additional power reactors have been shutdown. On the contrary, power uprates in the past twenty years have added a cumulative capacity equivalent to five new reactors. Almost all the operating reactors plan to have license extensions, thus postponing the eventual decommissioning. Nevertheless, in addition to the 9 reactors where licenses have been terminated following decommissioning, 12 power and early demonstration reactors and 14 test & research reactors are permanently shutdown and are in decommissioning phase. Substantial experience and lessons learned are available from the U.S. projects that are of value to the international decommissioning projects, especially where such projects are in early stages. These lessons cover a wide array of areas from decommissioning plans, technology applications, large component removal, regulatory and public interface, decommissioning funding and costs, clean up criteria, surveys of the decommissioned site, and license termination. Additionally, because of the unavailability of a national spent fuel disposition facility, most decommissioning sites are constructing above ground interim storage facilities for the spent nuclear fuel. The U.S. nuclear power projects are also gearing up for the design and licensing of new reactors. Lessons from the past are useful in the development of such designs so that along with the other factors, the designs are optimized for eventual decommissioning as well. This paper provides an overview of the past reactor decommissioning, lessons learned from the past experience, and status of the current decommissioning activities and issues. It also presents some long term projections for the future of decommissioning in the United States.

Copyright © 2009 by ASME



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