Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Decommissioning Cost Update for Humboldt Bay

We had our quarterly meeting last night with PG&E on the nuclear decommissioning going on at Humboldt Bay.  As in past meetings, I continue to be stunned by the complexity and scope of work being done, and most vividly, by the number of dollars being spent on this back end of the nuclear cycle.

Six months ago, I was elated about the decision to do a complete cleanup, although it would have raised the total decommissioning cost from $600 million to $800 million.  The new estimate is now $1.081 billion on through 2025!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  A lot is going to happen in the next 6 years when the project is estimated to be completed, and the six years for spent fuel storage; and I humbly predict (my guesses have been right on since 1978 when I first got into this game) that the final cost may well be $1.5+ billion.  This is for a 63MW plant. The current $1.081billion makes the electricity this nuclear unit produced in its 14 year life cost 21 cents/kwh just for decommissioning…let alone the initial capital costs and O&M costs over the past 50 years.  YIKES!
This is real life…in the jaws of the dragon…and very different from the continued propaganda coming from the nuclear industry.  Just today, an article in Chemical & Engineering News cites a cost estimate of $400 million for decommissioning a typical plant. ( )  An outright lie!
The current estimate for Diablo Canyon is $3 billion, and San Onofre is $4 billion…right…Humboldt was once $95 million.  Those costs may be 2-3x+?? higher down the road
There are 100+ US reactors that are just beginning to reach the end of their lives, and even with license extension, they will eventually have to be decommissioned.  We’re looking at half a trillion + dollars down the road…and that’s not even estimating what to do with the spent fuel, or what that would even cost. Guess who pays????
A non-nuclear accident at the plant in Arkansas the other day killed one worker and injured 8 others.  The stator on the generator was being removed when the crane failed, and the 500 ton equipment crashed through the floor, severely damaging the turbine building.  That plant will probably not be repaired (huge expense) and will have to be decommissioned.  The fate of Crystal River, Kewaunee. Vermont Yankee, San Onofre are just a few immediate sites of concern…nobody’s really talking about all the others.
Mark Cooper, an energy economist who has been right on in the past, is encouraging the state of Georgia to abandon the two Vogle plants now being constructed.  Writing off the $2 billion already spent will be a lot cheaper than finishing the plants at huge taxpayer subsidy, and then having to eventually fund decommissioning in the future.  The Western Public Power Supply System  did that in the early ‘80’s in the state of Washington, when they defaulted on the two partially build reactors in Clatsop.
And things are not boding well for the nuclear waste side either.  Major problems at Hanford with leaking tanks, and more recently the technical failure of the vitrification plant being built by Bechtel (half built, $12 billion spent, 12 years behind schedule), and now with huge technical problems, most likely will not be completed.  ( )  So much for reprocessing!
In the rest of the world, decommissioning costs, and waste costs and issues are beginning to come to light in England, France, and South Korea.  China forges ahead, but then, they are China and oblivious to least for the time being.
Meanwhile, we are very near the time when solar and other renewables are at grid parity…the same cost, if not cheaper, than coal and nuclear (even at its grossly underestimated cost.)
Let the sun shine and the wind blow.  My next piece will look at the state of the renewable industry, and its very rosy outlook for the future.

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