Thought Leadership

Decommissioning Summit: Expertise and Up-Front Planning Are Key

Category: News & Events
James Carter • October 10, 2018

The importance of meticulous advance planning was a major theme last week at Nuclear Energy Insider’s Nuclear Decommissioning & Used Fuel Strategy Summit in Charlotte, which I attended with my Modus colleague, Duke Bell.

The conference was well attended, with more than 400 industry leaders getting together to hear speakers covering a range of issues including the status of current projects, lessons learned, and strategies for decommissioning success. We also heard an update on rulemaking, which continues at a slow pace.

It was clear from the presentations that decommissioning projects truly vary in approach. Some include the sale of the asset to the decommissioning contractor. In other cases, the utility retains ownership. Some projects are safe-store, while some are full decommission. There are also hybrid approaches that pull together some combination of all of these.

The approach to decommissioning is influenced by a number of factors, including location, state and local requirements, the size of the trust fund, and cost estimates. Whether the project is a single vs. a multi-unit site has an impact. The owner’s capability and risk tolerance are also factors.

Without exception, the speakers stressed the value of rigorous up-front planning and the importance of including proper expertise on the team.

It was interesting to note that the power reactors that are currently being decommissioned were taken offline prior to the expiration of their license term.

The presentations addressed some of the challenges these projects face, and where the industry is focusing its energy – or needs to. Cutting up reactor internals, for example, is a major challenge due to the high radiation levels and nature of the components. Improved technology in this area would be welcomed.

As these reactors wind down, utilities are working with local businesses to mitigate the impact on their communities by coordinating de-staffing and the placement of plant employees in new jobs.

Overall, the summit provided a great opportunity for us to catch up on the latest trends and strategies and to network with others in the industry.