The decommissioning of Zion Station officially began Sept. 1, 2010. The $1 billion, 10-year project will be the largest commercial nuclear plant dismantling ever undertaken in the United States, requiring an average of 200 skilled workers each year, most of them local, and a peak workforce of 400.
Dismantling the Plant
In a first-of-its kind arrangement approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Exelon expects to transfer the station license early next month to EnergySolutions, a Salt Lake City nuclear services company that will dismantle the plant and remove material and parts to its Utah waste facility.
EnergySolutions is an industry leader in the decommissioning of nuclear plants and permanent disposal of nuclear waste, and has clients worldwide. EnergySolutions was formed in 2006 by merging BNG America, Duratek, Envirocare of Utah, and the D&D division of Scientech.
Used Nuclear Fuel
Throughout the process, Exelon will retain ownership of the plant’s used nuclear fuel, which must remain on the property in a secure facility. The used nuclear fuel currently stored in the plant fuel pools must remain on-site due to the delays in opening the national repository in Nevada. The used fuel currently in the plant fuel storage pools would be transferred into dry casks. The dry casks would be stored outdoors in a safe, secure, NRC licensed facility built on the site property until the federal government takes possession of the fuel, which it was required to do by law beginning in 1999. Political opposition to Yucca Mountain National Repository has delayed this action.
Outdoor storage of spent fuel is currently in operation at more than 34 other commercial nuclear plants in the U.S., including other Exelon plants in Illinois. The dry casks are large, virtually impenetrable steel and concrete structures. The dry cask storage process is safe and the storage facility will have similar security, licensing, and monitoring requirements as the plant.
Future Land Use
At the completion of the project, responsibility for the 200-acre site will transfer back to Exelon and will be available for other unrestricted commercial uses.
A portion of the Zion property also would continue to house the existing electrical transmission switchyard and related equipment that is of great importance to the electricity supply in northern Illinois.