French firm wins Vermont Yankee reactor dismantling contract

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French firm wins Vermont Yankee reactor dismantling contract

Wed, 07/12/2017 - 10:16am -- tim

Entergy photo of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power station. The reactor is contained in the large central building.

by Timothy McQuiston Vermont Business Magazine Paris-based AREVA has signed a contract with NorthStar to segment, package and transport to offsite disposal the reactor pressure vessel and internal reactor components of the Vermont Yankee Boiling Water Reactor. This does not include the spent fuel. The reactor began commercial operation in 1972 and, at full power, supplied 620 MW. It shut down in December 2014. Terms of the deal, announced Tuesday, were not disclosed.

To segment and dismantle the radioactive reactor internals, AREVA’s teams will use a variety of remotely operated underwater tools specifically designed for nuclear decommissioning and proven effective in various projects in the US and Germany. Vermont Yankee's reactor pressure vessel is a large steel cylinder with a diameter of 5.5 meters and 13 cm thick walls.

Guillaume Dureau, Senior Executive Vice President, Customers, Strategy, Innovation and R&D said in the press release: “Following a contract signed recently with Vattenfall in Germany to segment and package the internals of the Brunsbüttel nuclear power plant, we are pleased to have been selected for this project on the other side of the Atlantic. Such contracts are proof of the expertise AREVA has garnered in decommissioning nuclear reactors over the years.”

Based in New York, NorthStar provides environmental assessments, deconstruction and demolition, nuclear decommissioning, emergency response and asset recovery management.

Entergy, the owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power station, announced in November 2016 that it intended to sell the closed power station to NorthStar, which, if approved, could move up the ultimate decommissioning date by 45 years to 2030. That decommissioning, however, would likely not include moving the radioactive spent fuel from the Vernon site.

Entergy Corporation said in an SEC filing at the time that it had entered into a purchase and sale agreement with NorthStar Group Services, Inc to sell to a NorthStar subsidiary 100 percent of the membership interests in Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, LLC. The sale of ENVY to NorthStar will include the transfer of ENVY’s nuclear decommissioning trust and its obligations for spent fuel management and decommissioning. Entergy also announced plans to accelerate the transfer of all spent nuclear fuel to dry cask storage by approximately two years from 2020 to 2018, subject to obtaining necessary regulatory approvals.

Presumably, with a faster cleanup there would remain a greater number of workers until the plant site is cleaned up. Under Entergy's SAFSTOR plan, once the fuel is transferred to dry casks, the plant would be mothballed until the ultimate decommissioning begins, which could take up to 60 years.

Entergy shut down the 42-year-old Vermont Yankee after deciding that it was no longer financially viable. According to financial reports, the plant had been operating at a loss before it was last refueled in 2013. Entergy also had planned to shutter the FitzPatrick nuclear plant in Oswego, NY, for financial reasons, until Exelon agreed to buy the plant last summer and refuel it. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had led the effort to save the plant and its 600 jobs.

The ultimate location of the spent nuclear fuel at Vermont Yankee is the responsibility of the federal government, which has yet to locate a national repository for the highly radioactive waste. The spent fuel at nearly every nuclear power plant in the country is still stored on site.

Opponents of the sale to NorthStar have focused on the potential of cost overruns if major problems occur, including the discovery of more radiological problems than anticipated.

NorthStar has responded that it has promised another $125 million beyond the decommissioning trust fund and has more than 30 years of experience in such projects, including ones larger than Vermont Yankee. As of February 2017, the trust fund held $571 million. Entergy in 2014 estimated decommissioning would cost $1.24 billion. The dry cask storage (a separate $145 million project to be completed by then end of 2018) will also have to be maintained until it eventually is moved.

The NRC estimates costs for decommissioning a nuclear power plant range from $280-$612 million. Generally the faster a plant is decommissioned the less it costs; but if put into SAFSTOR the trust fund is able to grow in value.

NorthStar would own the site, including the spent fuel, going forward. NorthStar is buying Vermont Yankee for $1,000 in exchange for the property and decommissioning fund.

The sale of Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee is subject to closing conditions, including approval by the NRC and the Vermont Public Service Board. Entergy and NorthStar will ask the Public Service Board to approve proposed site restoration standards that are generally consistent with those of other regional decommissioning projects. The companies anticipate that the transaction will close by the end of 2018.

The group offers products, technologies and services with high added value throughout the entire nuclear fuel cycle, with activities encompassing mining, uranium chemistry, enrichment, used fuel recycling, logistics, dismantling and engineering.
New AREVA and its 20,000 employees bring to bear their expertise and their mastery of cutting-edge technology, as well as their permanent search for innovation and their unwavering dedication to safety, to serve their customers in France and abroad.

Source: PARIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--AREVA 7.11.2017. NRC. Entergy. Northstar.