The Zion nuclear plant site as it appeared earlier this year. (Photo: Tim Gregoire)
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has released for “unrestricted use” most of the land on and around where the Zion nuclear power plant once operated in northeastern Illinois. This means that any residual radiation is below the NRC’s limits and there will be no further regulatory controls by the agency for that portion of the property.
Vermont Yankee’s segmented reactor vessel head is lowered into a custom-built package for transportation and disposal. (Photo: Orano)
Currently, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is overseeing 17 nuclear power plants that are undergoing active decommissioning. For 10 of those plants, the NRC licenses have been transferred, either through sale or temporary transfer, from the plant owner and operator to a third party, nonutility company for decommissioning. To be profitable, those companies are decommissioning the nuclear plants as expediently as they safely can, while still protecting workers and the environment, using proprietary techniques and processes.
Having completed three separate decommissioning projects, EnergySolutions takes the final steps in restoring the sites to a natural state.
For any nuclear power plant that has been permanently shut down, site restoration is the ultimate decommissioning goal when contracting with a utility to demolish a facility. The task, however, is not as simple as mobilizing heavy equipment and waving a wrecking ball or planting explosives to implode the facility, then loading up the debris and sending it to a landfill.
There is a real science and engineering approach necessary to safely restore the land to its original state. That has been the goal for EnergySolutions over the past decade as the company works to safely decommission shuttered nuclear power plants—packaging, transporting, and disposing of the waste, and restoring the sites for whatever reuse the owners and host communities see fit.
The La Crosse site in 2019 with major decommissioning completed. The coal-fired Genoa plant is in the background. (Photo: EnergySolutions)
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has extended its orders transferring the licenses for the La Crosse and Zion nuclear power plants from EnergySolutions back to the plant owners until late 2022. This is the third time the NRC has extended the effectiveness of the license transfer orders for the decommissioned plants since approving them in 2019.