Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station Decommissioning
Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station was shut down permanently by Entergy on May 31, 2019, after providing electricity safely to the region for more than 46 years. In August of 2019, Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station was purchased by Holtec International in a deal that allowed the site to enter immediate decommissioning. The deal enables decommissioning and site release for alternate uses decades sooner than previously anticipated. As Pilgrim enters into this new chapter, its commitment to safety, the community and the environment remains unchanged.
Our Goals for Decommissioning Pilgrim
Achieving excellence in the health and safety of personnel
Protecting the environment now and for future generations
Ensuring a safe, respectful and equal opportunity workplace
Demanding the highest level of individual and corporate integrity
Continually improving upon our robust quality assurance program
Employing financially sustainable business practices
Maintaining transparent and ongoing communication with stakeholders
Fulfilling our promise to be a trusted steward of legacy nuclear materials
Decommissioning Nuclear Power Plants
Decommissioning is the process by which nuclear power plants are safely retired from service. The progression involves decontaminating the facility to reduce residual radioactivity, dismantling the structures, removing contaminated materials to appropriate disposal facilities and releasing the property for other uses. The owner remains accountable to the NRC until decommissioning has been completed and the agency has terminated its license.
Here’s a brief look at what will occur at Pilgrim:
- Pilgrim shut down its reactor for the final time on Friday, May 31, at 5:28 p.m.This removed 670 megawatts of electricity from the regional grid.
- Pilgrim’s fuel has been removed from the reactor vessel and placed in the spent fuel pool to cool.
- Once cooled, the fuel will be placed in stainless steel canisters and transported to the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Facility (ISFSI) on station property.
- Radioactive equipment and components are dismantled per an approved decommissioning plan.
- Contaminated components are dismantled, securely packaged and transported to a licensed off-site facility.
- The site is inspected by state and federal agencies to ensure the property has been returned to conditions outlined in the decommissioning plans. Both the State and Federal agencies will continue to monitor the site.
Our Decommissioning Team:
After Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station ceased operations, many of the operations employees transferred into a decommissioning organization. Throughout the decommissioning lifecycle, many of the same employees will assist in the safe dismantlement of Pilgrim Station. Here’s a look at what we will be doing.
Protecting the facility and the public:
A security force will safeguard the facility until all nuclear fuel has been removed from the site.
Engineers, technicians & craftworkers:
A highly qualified, skilled staff of experts will oversee and conduct the entire dismantlement process.
Using company employees and contracted experts, we will continue a strong environmental monitoring program through decommissioning.
Teams of qualified employees, both on and off-site, will be on-call all day, every day to work to protect the plant and the public in an unlikely emergency situation.
Overview of Decommissioning Process
- To decommission a nuclear power plant, the licensee must submit A Post‐Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report (PSDAR) to the NRC. This report provides a description of the planned decommissioning activities, a schedule for accomplishing them, and an estimate of the expected costs.
- The licensee has to reduce the residual radioactivity to levels that permit release of the property and termination of the facility’s operating license. The site must be decommissioned within 60 years of the plant ceasing operations.
- The decommissioning process involves removing the used nuclear fuel from the reactor; dismantling systems or components containing radioactive products (e.g. the reactor vessel); and cleaning up or dismantling contaminated materials from the facility.
- Contaminated materials can be disposed of in two ways: decontaminated on site or removed and shipped to a waste processing, storage or disposal facility.
(Companies can choose one or both options)
- SAFSTOR (Safe Storage) ‐ Plant is kept intact, all fuel is placed in spent fuel pool or dry storage casks and time is used as a decontaminating agent. Plant is then dismantled similar to DECON once radioactivity has decayed to lower levels.
- DECON (Decontamination) ‐ Contaminated equipment and materials are removed (used nuclear fuel rods and equipment account for over 99 percent of the plant’s radioactivity). Plant is then dismantled ‐ this phase can take five years or longer.
Terminating the NRC License, Releasing the Site
As the DECON phase nears completion, the company must submit a license termination plan to the NRC. This needs to occur within two years of the proposed license termination date. After the NRC receives the license termination plan, affected states, local communities and tribes may submit comments on the plan at a public meeting near the facility. The public also has the opportunity to request an adjudicatory hearing. Members of the public may observe any meeting the NRC holds with the company, unless the discussion involves proprietary, sensitive, safeguarded or classified information.
Once public concerns are addressed, the NRC will terminate the license if all work has followed the approved license termination plan and the final radiation survey shows that the site is suitable for release. Most plans envision releasing the site to the public for unrestricted use, meaning any residual radiation would be below NRC’s limits of 25 millirem per year. This completes the decommissioning process.
As stated in the PSDAR, Holtec plans to decommission Pilgrim (with the exception of the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation) on an eight-year schedule to permit NRC partial site release.
Part of decommissioning is moving the spent nuclear fuel from storage in the spent fuel pool to the dry storage facility called an Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (or ISFSI) which used to take five or more years after reactor shutdown. Holtec has dry storage systems, which allow the transfer to be safely completed in less than three years. The rest of the decommissioning activities can be safely started sooner and be performed more efficiently with the spent nuclear fuel on the ISFSI.
Holtec continues to explore all options for the safe and efficient removal of materials from the site including trucking and barging of waste. Once shipping decisions are finalized this will be shared with the local community. All shipping decisions will put safety first and would be done to minimize impact on the local community and environment.
Holtec’s decommissioning team has a National Labor Agreement (NLA) in place with the Laborers’ International Union of North America, Operating Engineers of North America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Working through these unions, local union halls near Pilgrim have been identified to provide the necessary skilled labor needed to safely execute and complete decommissioning.
Holtec has no immediate plans for any of the property at this time. As decommissioning proceeds further along, Holtec looks forward to partnering with the local community about possible future uses.
To learn more about Pilgrim decommissioning, visit www.pilgrimdecom.com.
Sixty-one casks will be used to store Pilgrim’s spent nuclear fuel.
The design, manufacturing, deployment, monitoring and maintenance activities for the HI-STORM 100 system are all conducted to ensure the safe storage of spent nuclear fuel. The aging management plan is under currently (July 2020) review by the NRC. Generally speaking, the first, baseline, inspection will occur within 365 days of the 20th anniversary of the initial overpack loading at the site; in the case of Pilgrim, the first inspection will occur in 2034. While the timeframe for actual inspection is some time away, the operations department performs daily visual inspections of the casks on the pad. In addition, we continue to collect and analyze new information on aging effects based on inspection findings and/or industry operating experience to ensure the continued safe storage of spent nuclear fuel. For more information, click here for a non-proprietary version of the renewal application for the casks. Finally, the Energy Power Research Institute Dry Canister Storage Canister Inspection from Diablo Canyon can be found here, as well as an update on Inspections of Dry Storage Canisters here.
There are no safety concerns with leaving the HI-STORM systems where they are currently located (the current spent fuel storage pad is located at 25.5 feet above mean sea level). Holtec’s dry storage systems are extremely robust and can withstand all kinds of unusual and accident conditions including events from natural phenomena like flooding, earthquakes, burial under debris, lightning strikes, and other phenomena (e.g., seiches, tsunamis, and hurricanes). Holtec is currently building a new, larger pad to accommodate a complete defueling of the Pilgrim spent fuel pool by 2022. This pad will be located at 75 feet above mean sea level. The new location was chosen for a number of reasons, including environmental concerns, but is focused on allowing prompt decommissioning in a safe and efficient manner.
As long as used fuel remains on site, a highly trained security force and a fortified security perimeter will remain in place according to Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations. In addition, Holtec is committed to working with the community to provide additional screening from the roadway.
The federal government has the obligation to take receipt of used fuel located at nuclear stations across the industry. At this time, there is no clear timeline for that action. Holtec has submitted its license application to build a consolidated interim storage facility for spent fuel called HI-STORE in New Mexico. Pilgrim’s used fuel could be relocated to this facility.
The Division of Spent Fuel Storage and Transportation, Interim Staff Guidance (ISG) – 1, Revision 2, Classifying the Condition of Spent Nuclear Fuel for Interim Storage and Transportation Based on Function (ML071420268), provides guidance on classifying spent nuclear fuel as either (1) damaged, (2) undamaged, or (3) intact, before interim storage or transportation. View ISG-1, Rev. 2 here.
The HI-STORM 100 storage system and the HI-STAR 100 transportation system are each licensed to store and transport damaged fuel and fuel debris, respectively. Damaged fuel and fuel debris must be loaded into a Damaged Fuel Container (DFC) for storage in the MPC and subsequent transportation in the HI-STAR 100 overpack. The MPC-68 is qualified to accommodate up to 16 DFCs in each MPC-68 canister.
In accordance with ISG-1 Rev. 2., for Pilgrim, Holtec was provided a report of the spent fuel classification program conducted by the previous owner. Holtec has validated the accuracy of the data and concurs with the classification. A summary of the spent fuel classification program follows:
- In accordance with the definition in ISG-1 Rev. 2, review of reactor operating records was conducted to determine suspect assemblies.
- Fuel sipping was conducted to determine if a fuel assembly has damage that exceeds the classification of undamaged fuel.
- If the fuel sipping could not positively determine if a fuel assembly has damage that exceeds the classification of undamaged fuel, then it was conservatively classified as a damaged assembly.
It has been determined that there are 296 damaged fuel assemblies at Pilgrim. No fuel debris has been identified.
To provide the secondary containment that is required by ISG-1 Rev. 2, Holtec uses Damaged Fuel Containers (DFC) for damaged fuel (see photo below). If fuel debris is encountered, the DFC would also be used for fuel debris.
Damaged fuel and fuel debris are placed in a Damaged Fuel Container (DFC) for storage and transport in the MPC. The DFC is licensed for storage in the HI-STORM 100, HI-STORM FW and HI-STORM UMAX and for transport in the HI-STAR 100 and HI-STAR 190.
The emergency planning zone will be reduced to the site boundary on April 1, 2020. This allowance is determined based on careful review and consideration of scientific data related to the risks associated with a potential issue with the spent fuel pool. With the reactor no longer in operation, and the multiple defense in depth options to maintain adequate level in the spent fuel pool, the scientific basis for the reduction is warranted. The change was consistent with other decommissioning plants and was approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Pilgrim has reached agreements with the former EPZ communities for demobilization of the program, while continuing to maintain an agreement with the host community of Plymouth through fuel on the pad which is projected to occur in 2021. Safety and security remain our #1 focus at Pilgrim Station.
Keeping neighbors and stakeholders informed has always been a priority at Pilgrim. Holtec, and their decommissioning general contractor CDI, regularly attend and provide information to local and state boards. The Massachusetts Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel (NDCAP), as well as the Plymouth Select Board routinely receive updates on the project. Past NDCAP meetings and information can be found here. In addition PACTV, the local cable access channel, posts each meeting on their YouTube channel for viewing, which can be found here.
HDI is Licensed Operator for Pilgrim
Holtec Decommissioning International (HDI) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Holtec International headquartered at the Krishna P. Singh Technology Campus, Camden, NJ. HDI functions as the licensed operator for Holtec owned nuclear power plants. HDI provides the licensee oversight of Comprehensive Decommissioning International (CDI), Holtec and SNC-Lavalin’s jointly owned decommissioning general contractor.
Public Documents and NRC Filings