Exelon hands off ex-reactor08/23/2010
Exelon hands off ex-reactor
Shuttered since 1998, Zion nuclear plant to be dismantled in $1 billion switch
Exelon Corp. is ready to hand over the keys to its Zion Nuclear Power Station, allowing a private company to begin dismantling the shuttered plant, officials said Monday.
The $1 billion project is expected to employ 200 to 400 people annually and take from 7 to 10 years.
The station, which sits on Lake Michigan shoreline 40 miles north of Chicago, closed in 1998 and has been overseen by a skeleton crew ever since.
"It's a great project for the nuclear industry because we will be cleaning up a nonoperating plant site many years ahead of schedule," said Val Christensen, CEO of EnergySolutions, the Salt Lake City-based company charged with the project.
"The benefit of doing it this way is we save a tremendous amount of time. We cut costs dramatically. It's safer," Christensen said.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the arrangement, which will allow Exelon to transfer its license to EnergySolutions in September. When work is complete, Exelon will resume responsibility for the 200-acre site, where spent fuel will be stored in large concrete casks, officials said.
Exelon announced the Zion plant's decommissioning as part of a $4.6 billion investment in Illinois nuclear projects, with upgrades planned at six more plants over the next five years.
The investment is well above the company's usual expenditures for refueling operations, said Mike Pacilio, Exelon's chief nuclear officer.
In Zion, residents won't see hard-hat workers immediately, with engineering design and site preparation required first.
Mayor Lane Harrison said he expects the corporation will also need to agree on city fees that could reach $10 million or more.
While the dismantling of a nuclear station is extraordinary, he said, the usual city fees should apply. Zion charges 1 percent of demolition costs and 1.5 percent of new construction costs, he said.
Local officials also want assurances that the roadways will be maintained while enduring heavy truck traffic.
"Just as it would be with any other construction job or demolition job, we will definitely have to arrive at a price for all of it before we let them proceed down there," Harrison said.
"A lot of companies think because this is a huge job, we want to pay you a little at a time as it goes," he said. "We do not want the pay structure piecemealed."
Over the coming years, EnergySolutions will remove about 500,000 cubic feet of material from the site, from concrete walls to pipes and machinery.
The materials, mostly contaminated with low-level radiation, will be transported by rail cars to the company's private property 80 miles west of Salt Lake City.
New construction is needed to store the spent radioactive fuel, which will remain at the Zion site in concrete dry storage casks. The fuel currently is stored in a pool of water.
Lisa Black and Julie Wernau