NRC approves transfer of Vallecitos to North Star for D&D

May 2, 2024, 7:01AMRadwaste Solutions
The Vallecitos Nuclear Center site in northern California. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

By an order dated April 25, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved the transfer of ownership of Vallecitos Nuclear Center from GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to NorthStar Group Services for nuclear decontamination, decommissioning, and environmental site restoration.

Located about 40 miles east of San Francisco, Calif., the 1,600-acre site was home to the Vallecitos Boiling Water Reactor (VBWR), which operated from 1957 until 1963 and was the first commercially owned nuclear plant to supply power to the general public. From 1965 through 1975, the center was used to conduct research work for the Atomic Energy Commission’s Nuclear Energy Program and the civilian nuclear power industry.

Background: GEH and Northstar announced in May 2023 their intention to transfer ownership of Vallecitos, and the companies submitted an application to the NRC for the direct transfer of the center’s licenses in September 2023.

According to NorthStar, the ownership and license transfer of Vallecitos is modeled on the company’s acquisition of the former Vermont Yankee nuclear power station, which was approved by the NRC in 2018. NorthStar is also currently decommissioning Florida’s Crystal River Unit 3 in partnership with Orano.

The details: Under the transfer, NorthStar now owns the Vallecitos Nuclear Center as well as its associated assets and real estate, including its decommissioning trust fund, title to spent nuclear fuel, and rights under the terms of its standard contract with the Department of Energy for the disposal of the center’s spent nuclear fuel.

NorthStar will take over the decommissioning of Vallecitos on an accelerated schedule. The company said it will restore the site to conditions suitable for productive reuse for other commercial or industrial purposes.

GEH previously started decommissioning work on the VBWR, as well as on the site’s General Electric Test Reactor and the ESADA Vallecitos Experimental Superheat Reactor. In 2021, GEH informed the NRC that it intended to complete the decommissioning of the VBWR by 2025.

As with its other ongoing nuclear decommissioning projects, NorthStar anticipates disposing the low-level radioactive waste from Vallecitos at the Andrews County, Texas, facility operated by its affiliate, Waste Control Specialists.

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