Fact-check: “We don’t know how to dismantle nuclear power plants”

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Published on 27/10/2021

“We don’t know how to dismantle nuclear power plants”
We still hear this statement regularly, in comments and media statements, without being denied.

And yet … It’s false.

Yes, we know how to do it in France: the dismantling of Chooz A, a pressurized water reactor (PWR) type like the rest of the French fleet in activity, is well advanced and should be completed within 18 months.

In the United States, 6 dismantling and “return to grass” have already been carried out for PWRs: Maine Yankee (2005) – also corresponding to the PWR model chosen for the French fleet, Rancho Seco (2008), Yankee Rowe (2002), Trojan (2005), San Onofre (2005), Connecticut Yankee (2006).

The Zion and LaCrosse sites have also been decommissioned but are not yet “released” from their nuclear use.
Moreover, the French group Orano is a major player in dismantling in the US.

Around the world, 42 PWRs are in the process of being dismantled, as well as 32 boiling water reactors.

And Brennilis? And the often cited UNGG?

These old reactors (historically marginal) were shut down in the 1980s and 1990s. Their dismantling is indeed more complex. At the time, the official doctrine was that of deferred dismantling, namely to start dismantling several decades after the shutdowns of the units.

In the early 2000s, France changed its doctrine and switched to immediate dismantling. It was only then that the operator began to work on dismantling the units that had already been shut down.

The dismantling of Brennilis is not complete in particular because the work was legally prevented by anti-nuclear organizations.

With regard to the UNGGs, EDF preferred, with the agreement of ASN, to review its strategy in order to implement technical solutions making it possible to have less waste to manage. Still in the US, the UNGG of Fort St Vrain has been dismantled.

Decommissioning costs are provisioned over the life of the plant. These costs are also included in RTE’s recently published energy scenarios.

Source IRSN

Crédit photo : Maine Yankee