Kewaunee to begin site restoration work in tandem with reactor D&D

April 11, 2023, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions
The Kewanee nuclear power plant is located along the shore of Lake Michigan. (Photo: EnergySolutions)

EnergySolutions subsidiary KewauneeSolutions is hoping to begin site restoration work at the closed Kewaunee nuclear power plant in Wisconsin later this year and has submitted a request to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to use the plant’s decommissioning trust fund to do so.

KewauneeSolutions, which acquired the power plant from Dominion Energy in June 2022 for the purpose of decontamination and decommissioning, requested that the NRC exempt the company from certain 10 CFR Part 50 regulations.

According to KewauneeSolutions, those regulations would prohibit it from using trust funds for activities related to site restoration prior to finishing radiological decommissioning. The company, however, claims that its decommissioning plan includes site restoration work “that must be performed concurrently with the completion of radiological decommissioning.”

The company further asked the agency to approve the request by December 1 to allow the restoration work to begin this year. KewauneeSolutions submitted the exemption request to the NRC on March 29.

Greenfield commitment: After closing Kewaunee in 2013, Dominion put the single-unit 574 MWe pressurized water reactor in SAFSTOR for deferred decommissioning, at the same time committing to the state of Wisconsin that it would restore the site to greenfield condition. That agreement with the state carried over to KewauneeSolutions when it became the licensee. KewauneeSolutions intends to decommission the reactor site and terminate the license by 2031 under the NRC’s DECON approach to prompt decommissioning.

Since acquiring the plant last year, KewauneeSolutions has been conducting site characterization (both radiological and nonradiological) and building the infrastructure needed to transition to physical decommissioning. Infrastructure work includes planning and procurement, construction of field offices, engineering, waste management preparations, and staffing. The first phase of building demolition is expected to begin in May, and the segmentation of the reactor is currently planned to begin in 2025.

Restoration work: As part of its site restoration activities, KewauneeSolutions said that any buildings, structures, and other facilities that are unimpacted and can be demonstrated to be radiologically clean will be dismantled as part of its “clean building demolition” plan.

Other activities that support site restoration include background surveys and sampling of land areas outside of the industrial/restricted areas of the site, groundwater monitoring, and compliance activities that support Wisconsin’s nonradiological cleanup standards.

KewauneeSolutions said that its decommissioning strategy creates the potential for earlier reuse of the property, as site restoration is not deferred many years in the future.

The cost: In its request to the NRC, KewauneeSolutions projected that the cost of site restoration work would be $47.7 million, about 5 percent of the total cost of decommissioning the Kewaunee site. The plant’s decommissioning trust fund had a balance of more than $819 million at the time the license was transferred to KewauneeSolutions.

According to KewauneeSolutions, when including projected earnings and expected future spent nuclear fuel management reimbursements, the trust fund contains enough money to complete radiological decommissioning, spent fuel management, and site restoration activities. The exemptions, therefore, “would not present an undue risk to the public health and safety or prevent decommissioning from being completed as planned,” the company said.

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