Decommissioning Costs for the Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant
The final Environmental Impact Statement in 1987 stated the decommissioning cost as $95 million. In 2006, after a thorough review by the TLG consulting firm, the cost was raised to $378.5m. In 2011, at one of the Community Advisory Board meetings, the cost was revised to $550m. In 2013, in an official publication, the final cost through 2025 was estimated at $1.08 BILLION. (see attachment)
There are several reasons for this huge amount.
First, this plant was really very dirty, and the way it was built allowed RA contamination to seep all over the place...into concrete gaps, pipe holes, etc. After all the surveys, it was deemed easier and more cost effective to treat almost all the concrete structures as low level waste, carefully demolish them, and haul it all away to Texas, Utah, and Idaho; rather than to painstakingly try and separate out the more contaminated components. This, of course was expensive and required a lot of controlled demolition, packaging, and transportation by truck.
A second reason for the cost increase was the demand by the community and PG&E's acceptance that all the RA contamination below ground be removed. This reactor was below grade, and the concrete caisson in which it sat was contaminated due to leaks, activation, etc. Since Humboldt Bay is just a few hundred feet away, this caisson sat within the groundwater at the site. At one point several years ago, water actually was seeping INTO the caisson and had to be sealed. So again, instead of trying to remove the more radioactive portions of the caisson, the whole thing will be demolished and shipped away. In order to do this, a 300+ ft slurry wall will be built around the footprint of the plant down to a depth of 120 feet, the water will be pumped out and treated, the concrete caisson will be demolished and hauled away, and then the hole will be backfilled. The estimated cost of of this is about $400m.
A third reason for the high expenditure is that the Spent Fuel is covered under the decommissioning fund. Close to $70m was spent in 2008 to build the ISFSI storage facility on site where the fuel and reactor internals are in 6 dry casks located in a concrete vault. The cost of maintenance and security runs about $12m/yr, although the actual number is hard to get out of PG&E. If you look at the 2013 PG&E budget, you'll see that $471m was spent up to 2012, and $1bn to be spent completely removing the plant by 2017, and in the years to 2025, the costs of final environmental remediation and spent-fuel storage takes the cost out to close to $1.2bn. What the costs for security, etc. after that remains to be seen.
As to who pays for all this, it is definitely NOT the utility of its stockholders; but the ratepayers, and to some degree, the taxpayers. In the '70's and '80's, two funds were set up to assure money for spent fuel storage and decommissioning. The first was a fee of 1 mill ($0.001) for every nuclear kwh of electricity generated. Some $24bn has been collected; but this is all moot now, since the rulings late last year where the Federal courts have suspended collection to this fund, some $12bn was spent on Yucca Mountain, and several utilities have sued and been re-reimbursed for some of the moneys they put in. So it looks like the taxpayer will wind up paying for the storage and ultimate disposal (if that ever happens) of the spent fuel around the country.
The second fund...the decommissioning trust fund...was set up by PG&E to collect money from the utility ratepayers as a fee on their monthly bill. In 2006, there was $265m in the fund; and in spite of the economic downturn, in 2011, PG&E stated there was $332m in the fund. Over the past 5 or so years, the PUC has authorized the collection of somewhere around $15-18m/yr to be added to the fund.
My next quest to to get a real handle on how much has been collected over the years, how much has been spent out of the fund, and more importantly, how much will continue to be collected to pay the $1.2+/-???? for the future. An interesting point is that people today, and our kids and grandkids tomorrow will pay for the “cheap” nuclear electricity generated over the past 40 years. I've estimated the the HBNPP produced about 5 billion kwh of electricity in its 14 years of service. This amounts to over 20 cents/kwh just for decommissioning, and add to that the inestimable costs of High-Level Waste in the future. Then there is the costs of decommissioning all the support infrastructure, uranium mines, enrichment plants, etc, etc,....$$$$$$$$$$$s!!!!!!
I am thrilled to see these issues beginning to come to light with the recent closure of San Onofre and the pending closure of Vermont Yankee. Both of these reactors sites are getting national press as to how decommissioning will occur, how long will it take, and most importantly, WHO will pay HOW MUCH for it. This is a battle I have bee n fighting for over 30 years.