Last Monday Entergy announced that they would shutdown the FitzPatrick nuclear power plant sometime in early 2017, because it was not financially profitable anymore and was costing the company some $60 million per year.
Entergy officials have confirmed that they will seek to defer the decommissioning of the FitzPatrick nuclear power plant under the “SAFSTOR” option. This will allow the utility to wait up to 50 years while the money in the decommissioning fund grows and the radioactivity on-site diminishes.
Federal regulations require that the nuclear power plant be decommissioned within 60 years of shutting down.
The most recent analysis shows that the FitzPatrick decommissioning fund has roughly $728 million dollars. NRC early estimates say it will cost at least $1.1 billion to decommission the reactor, but the actual cost will likely be much more. Entergy expects the fund to grow by 2% per year.
After shutting down the FitzPatrick plant, Entergy will remove the fuel from the reactor and in a few years they will begin transferring spent fuel to dry casks for storage during the dormant period until they start decommissioning the facility. The exact timeline for the process will be communicated in a decommissioning plan that has not yet been released by Entergy.
SAFSTOR is a controversial option, in part because of the enormous economic impact shutting down a nuclear power plant has on the surrounding community, and because the land can’t be put to any other valuable use until the site has been properly decommissioned. Critics are telling Entergy that they could keep more workers on-site and return the land to beneficial use faster if they don’t delay the decommissioning.
Entergy is also taking advantage of the SAFSTOR process to defer the decommissioning of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant which shut down in 2014. Entergy has said that they will start dismantling Vermont Yankee sometime between 2040 and 2069, depending on how long it takes for the decommissioning fund to grow.