If you like being up to date in terms of news in the energy sector, or if you live close to a power plant, you must have heard the word “decommissioning” more than once.
Decommissioning is the administrative and technical process to remove something from an active status (Wikipedia). Applied to industrial facilities, it means disabling and dismantling any active industrial units until no hazardous material or danger remain.
Decommissioning commonly concerns power plants, especially nuclear, pipelines, offshore rigs, tanker ships, military aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines. Nuclear decommissioning is the “process whereby a nuclear power plant site is dismantled to the point that it no longer requires measures for radiation protection” (Wikipedia). A more detailed definition can be found on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission website.
Decommissioning projects are submitted to strict regulations and standards, such as:
- U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission ; Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
- U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (offshore oil and gas facilities) ; Ocean Conservation Measures
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Fisheries and Oceans Canada
- U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Pipeline Safety; Canada Energy Pipeline Association
These steps are based on a typical offshore rig decommission, but the general process can be applied to power plants, ships and submarines.
- Project management: review of contractual obligations, engineering analysis, operational planning, contracting.
- Engineering and planning.
- Permitting and regulatory compliance: consulting firms can assist in obtaining required licenses and permits.
- Facilities preparation: flushing and cleaning tanks and pipes, getting metal units ready to be lifted.
- Disabling industrial units.
- Equipment removal.
- Materials disposal and site clearance: these two final steps require pre-decommissioning and post decommissioning surveys, identification of debris which could interfere with dismantling operations, and test trawling to ensure that the area is free of debris and ready.
- Site release.
For nuclear plants, three methods are available:
- Reactor dismantling and decontamination, allowing the land to be used again;
- Safe storage: the plant is monitored and taken down once radiation has decayed;
- Entombment: a coffin or dome made of concrete and steel is set on the radioactive components. The Tchernobyl nuclear plant is a typical example of entombment. The land can be used once radiation has decayed, which can take decades depending on the level of radiation.
Projects require several years, from assessing the need to decommission a power plant to dismantling the last industrial unit. For nuclear plants, it can take up to 60 years in case of safe storage or unlimited time if the site cannot be decontaminated.
The main reason is financial. It is sometimes not worth economically to upgrade power plants, offshore oil platforms, tankers and nuclear submarines. Alternative technologies exist and may prevail over updating current facilities.
Safety will also lead companies and governments to close facilities. For nuclear plants, government commissions assign operation licenses for an average period of 40 years. Nevertheless it is common to extend the plant’s life to 60 years or more. Safety is a key reason, but is sometimes put aside for economic reasons.
What happens to removed equipment?
- Working units are redeployed or sold as is, where is.
- Metals are scrapped and recycled.
- Hazardous substances are sent to specialized processing facilities to be reclaimed or decontaminated.
To learn more about disposition options, read our blog post about the 7 Ways To Dispose of Your Surplus Assets.
How much does it cost?
Even though the operating company is required to set aside funds throughout the plant’s or industrial facilities’ operating lifetime, it is common to see costs increase step after step. The decommissioning cost sometimes exceeds the cost of the plant when it was purchased. The spent fuel –nuclear waste – is sent to specialized waste disposal facilities and buried underground. No methodology has been found to process such hazardous waste yet.
Veracity can assist your utility or industrial company retrieve value from idle or decommissioned equipment. We can help you implement a tailored investment recovery program which will free up money for your bottom line. According to the Investment Recovery Association, $1 put in the investment recovery brings at least $20 dollars back to the bottom line. This is no magic, but a combination of a dedicated and skilled team and an effective network.
- Setting/improving Policies and Procedures to manage the end of life cycle of corporate assets. This starts with a well-defined policy, asset release form and follows key procedures to maximize the asset disposition process with full audit trail that provides risk mitigation to avoid environmental liabilities.
- Sending feet on the ground inventory teams that can efficiently capture asset data and catalog the assets to provide internal corporate wide visibility of available surplus.
- Sending the surplus back to the market through our network with the purpose of maximizing the value you recover.
- Developing scrap management protocols to maximize return on scrap as well as reduce corporate exposure to environmental liabilities.
Contact us at 866-694-1252 or email@example.com. We are located in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, with solutions available for the North American market. Visit our website at http://www.veracityamg.com
Current Decommissioning Projects:
Exelon: Company dismantling Zion nuclear plant is running out of money
Entergy: $1.24B Is Needed to Decommission Vermont Yankee Nuclear
Letters: Good luck to Leshinskie on decommissioning of Vermont Yankee
San Onofre nuclear power plant dismantling will cost $4.4 billion, take 20 years
Chance for one last tour of Spondon’s Celanese factory before it is bulldozed
For offshore oil and gas decommissioning UK projects, you can check the Decommissioning Projects Index
Decommissioning a Nuclear Plant Can Cost $1 Billion and Take Decades
How Fukushima nuclear plant will be dismantled
Oil & Gas UK Decommissioning Insight 2013
Closing and Decommissioning Nuclear Power Reactors (2012)
Nuclear Decommissioning by Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_decommissioning
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – http://www.epa.gov/
Students’ Corner – Decommissioning, by theU.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission – http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/basic-ref/students/decommissioning.html
How Does Decommissioning Work? by Rigzone – http://www.rigzone.com/training/insight.asp?i_id=354
Decommissioning Nuclear Power Plants, by the Nuclear Energy Institute – http://www.nei.org/master-document-folder/backgrounders/fact-sheets/decommissioning-nuclear-energy-facilities
Staff Responses Frequently Asked Questions Concerning Decommissioning of Nuclear Power Reactors – http://www.eu-decom.be/faqs/faqs2.htm#_1_27
Learn more about our Critical Spares Management Solution for Utilities: Make electrical equipment procurement easy and efficient. Locate a matching power transformer before a failure occurs!
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