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Kewaunee plant closure could cost nearly $1B

The 56-megawatt Kewaunee Power Station in Carlton will stop generating electricity in May. (AP File Photo/Dominion Resources Inc.)

KEWAUNEE, Wis. (AP) — The Kewaunee Power Station is scheduled to stop generating electricity next month and begin its plan to decommission its nuclear reactor — a move that could cost nearly $1 billion.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Saturday that Dominion Resources spokesman Mark Kanz said the company has 60 years to clean up the site and turn it into a “greenfield site.”

“At some point it basically has to look like the farm fields in the 1960s, before any construction started here,” he said.

The reactor is closing because utilities that had purchased its electricity decided to stop buying it, citing the low price of natural gas. The plant is scheduled to close May 7, resulting in the loss of hundreds of jobs.

As part of the decommissioning, all buildings on the 900-acre site east of Green Bay will be torn down and low-level radioactive waste will be shipped out of state. But concrete casks that hold spent fuel, or high-level radioactive waste, will stay on the site for years. Dominion plans to start shipping those casks away in 2021 — the same year the federal Department of Energy said it plans to begin accepting nuclear waste from commercial reactors.

Dominion estimates the decommissioning will cost $920 million. The federal government is responsible for the disposal of the spent fuel, which will take up about a third of that cost.

The decommissioning plan will be discussed at a Nuclear Regulatory Commission meeting Wednesday in Kewaunee.

“Our major concern for this meeting is that, since the decision to decommission the plant has been made, we want to make sure that the decommissioning process is conducted in a safe and thorough way,” said commission spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng.

The meeting will focus on what will happen in coming years, beginning with what will happen next month.

One of the first activities that will happen after the power plant stops running will be to transfer that fuel into a deep pool inside the power plant, where spent fuel is stored to cool down.

“The fuel that’s coming out of the reactor right now is going to be too hot for a period of probably about 10 years,” said Kanz. “All the fuel that has been used in Kewaunee since 1974 is still here on site. A very small amount has been moved to the dry storage site.”

Dominion must also begin draining water from large pieces of equipment, which will “give some time for parts that are radioactive to decay over time,” Kanz said. “That will make it safer and less expensive to decommission over time.”

Dominion has outlined its decommissioning plan in a report filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which must approve it.

Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,

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