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Letter: The billion dollar decommissioning industry

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For those that don’t track nuclear energy development like I do, you might be getting mixed signals about the future of nuclear power plants (NPP) in the United States. The U.S. hasn’t been building reactors for the last 40 years and only has two under construction at an existing NPP site. Several U.S. utility companies are decommissioning older NPP’s because of overhead cost created by cheaper electricity generation with Natural Gas.

There is a multi-billion dollar NPP decommissioning industry being developed by Holtec International Decommissioning Division. When a utility company cannot justify operating loses from their NPP, they have to make a decision to protect their shareholders and employee investments.

One of those ways is to sell off assets that are losing money and replace it with a more profitable energy source. Natural gas has become that cheaper energy source. Another option is to ask state governments for subsidies to help cover the cost of operation. New York State has decided not to save their perfectly good NPP’s.

Holtec has reached an agreement with the Entergy Company to acquire Indian Point Energy Center (an NPP) after the last of the three reactors shuts down in 2021. The sale includes the transfer of the licenses, spent fuel, decommissioning liabilities, and Nuclear Decommissioning Trusts (NDT) for the three units. There are billions of dollar in those trust funds paid by customers over the decades that will cover the cost of the NPP decommissioning and the storage of unused nuclear fuel rods.

In addition to Indian Point, New York, Holtec has already acquired and started closure on two other requests for license transfer; the ongoing Oyster Creek (New Jersey) and Pilgrim (Massachusetts) License Transfer Applications (LTAs), which are moving smoothly through the Nuclear Regulatory Commission agency, with anticipated approvals. The infamous Three Mile Island plant is also in the decommissioning queue. Why would Holtec invest in decommissioning if there is no repository to store the waste?

All the spent nuclear fuel rods have to be removed and stored at an interim storage facility. Holtec International is the company that has proposed the HI-STORE CISF site in partnership with Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA) for the interim storage of unused nuclear fuel rods here in New Mexico near WIPP.

Martin Kral
Roswell