The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission stipulates three methods by which nuclear power plants can be decommissioned, and each method requires a license. Those plants being decommissioned must be safely removed from service and any residual radioactivity reduced to a level that would allow a release of the property.
There are three main methods: DECON, SAFSTOR, and ENTOMB:
- DECON is defined as the immediate dismantling soon after the nuclear facility closes with equipment, structures, and parts of the facility containing radioactive contaminants being removed or decommissioned.
- SAFSTOR is known as “deferred dismantling” where the facility is maintained and monitored, which allows for radioactive decay prior to the plant being dismantled and the property decontaminated.
- ENTOMB is defined as the permanent encasement of radioactive contaminants on the site in structurally sound materials such as concrete. The facility is maintained and monitored until the radioactivity levels reach a point where restricted release of the property can occur. The most notable entombment is the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant as reported by IndustryTap in 2013.
All nuclear power plants are required to have a decommissioning plan ahead of their construction, and a trust fund or guarantee from a parent company that sufficient money will be available when decommissioning is necessary.
The United States currently has 17 plants in some phase of the decommissioning process. Items shaded blue in the chart below have completed their decommissioning.
The following video explains the planned life cycles of nuclear power plants and how they are decommissioned when the time comes:
Nuclear Plant Demolitions
Back in 2006, the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant demolished a cooling tower. The following video was produced by General Electric Portland.
The following video shows the demolition of four cooling towers at UK’s Calder Hall.