The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is the federal agency responsible for regulating the lifecycle of nuclear facilities. From the NRC perspective, decommissioning means safely removing a facility or site from service and reducing residual radioactivity to a level that permits either of the following actions:
- Release the property for unrestricted use, and terminate the NRC license.
- Release the property under restricted conditions, and terminate the NRC license.
Additional information may be found on the NRC’s decommissioning website along with a brochure and a video that explains the decommissioning process along with a copy of the NRC’s 2017 Annual Report on the Status of the Decommissioning Program.
This rulemaking would amend the NRC's regulations to provide an appropriate regulatory framework for nuclear power reactors transitioning from operations to decommissioning. The goals of this rulemaking are to:
- Provide for a safe, effective, and efficient decommissioning process
- Reduce the need for license amendment requests and exemptions from existing regulations
- Address other decommissioning issues deemed relevant by the NRC
The rulemaking would address lessons learned from licensees that have completed or are currently in the decommissioning process, and would align regulatory requirements with the reduction in risk that occurs over time, while continuing to maintain safety and security.
This rulemaking process has been underway since 2015. The rulemaking website is here and the current version of the proposed rule may be found here.
REG CON 2018
NRC's Division of Spent Fuel Management's Conference (REG CON) is an annual forum to discuss NRC regulatory and technical issues involving spent fuel storage, decommissioning and the transportation of radioactive material. The 2018 REG CON took place on December 11-12, 2018.
Revisions to Decommissioning Generic Environmental Impact Statement
In connection with the Decommissioning Rulemaking above, the NRC staff is planning to revise the Decommissioning Generic Environmental Impact Statement or Decommissioning GEIS which was last updated in 2002.
The Decommissioning GEIS is used to evaluate environmental impacts during the decommissioning of nuclear power reactors licensed by the NRC as residual radioactivity at the site is reduced to levels that allow for termination of the NRC license.
Planned revisions include:
- adding experience from recent decommissioning facilities;
- incorporating the conclusions of the Generic Environmental Impact Statement for Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel, also known as the Continued Storage GEIS;
- revisiting the Decommissioning GEIS findings based on updated information, including comments received on the rulemaking; and,
- revising as necessary to reflect the outcome of the current rulemaking activities.
In addition, the staff would incorporate best practices and lessons learned from environmental reviews conducted for other NRC applications. The staff would also evaluate the process for implementing the decommissioning GEIS and make any necessary enhancements to the document.
The staff would revise the Decommissioning GEIS on a separate schedule from the decommissioning rulemaking because of the additional public interactions and engagement with other Federal agencies that occur during a National Environmental Policy Act review.
Planning and Economic Development
There are significant socio-economic impacts that accompany the closure and decommissioning of a nuclear power plant. The following reports summarize community experiences understanding these impacts and developing action plans. Additional documentation will be added to this list on a regular basis.
Efforts to model and better understand the socio-economic contribution of a nuclear power plant and the impacts of closure on a host community and surrounding region.
- Diablo Canyon (California)
- Stakeholders at Diablo Canyon have been undertaking a comprehensive effort regarding site reuse with information found on their website.
- State legislation (SB 1090) provides San Luis Obispo County with $85M for economic mitigation by PG&E in relation to the 2025 plant closure.
- In December 2018, the Diablo Canyon Decommissioning Engagement Panel released their Strategic Vision Report.
- Yankee Rowe Nuclear Power Plant (Massachusetts)
- The Closing of the Yankee Rowe Nuclear Power Plant: The Impact on a New England Community John Mullin & Zenia Kotval, 1997
- Bradwell Nuclear Power Station (UK)
- Bradwell Socio-Economic Study: Economic Impact Assessment Report, Regeneris Consulting, 2013
- Dungeness A Nuclear Power Station (UK)
- Romney Marsh Socioeconomic Impact Report, Regeneris Consulting, 2012
Socio-economic Action Plans
- UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority Annual Report
- Socio-economic Report 2017/18, UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, 2018
- Dungeness A Nuclear Power Station (UK)
- Romney Marsh Socioeconomic Action Plan, Regeneris Consulting, 2016
- Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station (Massachusetts)
- Bradwell Nuclear Power Station (UK)
- Bradwell Socio-Economic Action Plan, Regeneris Consulting, 2013
- United Kingdom-Wide Action Plan
- Socio-Economic Development Plan 2011-2015, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, 2011
General Planning and Lessons Learned
- The Changing Energy Landscape – Redevelopment Impacts
- Lessons Learned from Vermont Yankee
- Comprehensive Decommissioning Planning Report -- World Nuclear Association
United Kingdom's Nuclear Legacy Advisory Forum (NuLeAF)
NuLeAF's membership consists of local government bodies representing communities hosting operational and decommissioning sites. Their website provides a wealth of information regarding the UK's efforts to manage its nuclear legacies.
The University of Manchester's Dalton Nuclear Institute
The University of Manchester fosters and promotes cross-disciplinary research in the domain of nuclear and the social sciences. Projects of interest include: Community, vulnerability, and wellbeing in Trawsfynydd and The Social Value of Nuclear Decommissioning.
As a complement to the above site-specific information, we also provide access to relevant scholarly research in the field of decommissioning.
- Societal Constraints Related to Environmental Remediation and Decommissioning Programs
Spent Nuclear Fuel
The disposal of spent nuclear fuel from commercial nuclear power plants is the responsibility of the federal government as described in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 and amendments. At present, efforts to dispose of spent nuclear fuel are awaiting legislative direction from the U.S. Congress. Accordingly, on-site (at reactor) storage of spent nuclear fuel remains the only available option until such time that a federal disposal program is initiated.
In parallel, two entities (Waste Control Specialists in Texas and Holtec International in New Mexico) have filed license applications to build interim storage facilities that, if successful, may provide an alternative to on-site storage.
Constructive engagement with local stakeholders is the cornerstone of any successful energy project. This section provides resources and examples of how engagement may be structured in support of nuclear power plant decommissioning.
But first, it is worthwhile to set the context. To that end, the following article from the Harvard Business Review provides solid grounding for those considering a stakeholder engagement initiative.
- How I Turned a Critical Public into Useful Consultants, Peter T. Johnson, Harvard Business Review
The following are some examples of websites, advisory boards or panels that have been created to support various nuclear decommissioning projects.
Decommissioning Plant Coalition
- Diable Canyon Decommissioning Website
- Diablo Canyon Diablo Canyon Power Plant Decommissioning Engagement Panel Charter -- 2018
- Maine Yankee Community Advisory Panel Charter -- 2018
- The Maine Yankee Decommissioning Advisory Panel – Lessons Learned -- 2005
- San Onofre Decommissioning Website
- San Onofre Decommissioning Community Engagement Panel Charter -- 2014