Holtec International has completed its acquisition of the shut-down Pilgrim nuclear power plant from Entergy Corporation. The plant is the second US decommissioning project to be acquired by Holtec.

Pilgrim (Image: Entergy)

Completion of the sale followed the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission's approval on 22 August of the transfer of Pilgrim's licence from Entergy Nuclear Operations Inc to Holtec International, as owner, and Holtec Decommissioning International (HDI), as decommissioning operator. NRC staff concluded that Holtec and HDI met the regulatory, legal, technical and financial requirements necessary to qualify as licensees. The licence transfer includes the existing dry cask used fuel storage installation at Pilgrim.

The sale was announced by the two companies in August 2018. Holtec plans to complete decommissioning of the site - with the exception of the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation - within eight years. Pilgrim now joins Oyster Creek, acquired from Exelon in July, as the second project in Holtec's nuclear decommissioning fleet. Holtec has also agreed to purchase the two-unit Indian Point and Palisades plants from Entergy following those plants' planned closures. All the decommissioning programmes will be run under an integrated management structure.

"Our fleet approach to decommissioning will help ensure that Pilgrim's deconstruction is completed with the utmost safety using best practices," Holtec’s Senior Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer Pierre Oneid said. "By applying today's innovative and proven technologies, we expect to safely complete decommissioning and restore the site decades sooner than originally anticipated."

The first steps of Pilgrim's decommissioning will involve moving the plant's used fuel from its storage pool to a dry storage system, and dismantling highly activated reactor parts which will be transferred to high capacity transport packages. This will remove the majority of the radiation source, Holtec said. The company expects to place all the used nuclear fuel in structurally impregnable dry storage systems in less than three years after the plant's shutdown, which it said would be unprecedented in the history of decommissioning of nuclear plants.

Completion of decommissioning will mean the site - with the exception of a small parcel of land where the dry storage casks will be securely held and monitored - will be fit for release for commercial or industrial use. Holtec ultimately hopes to ship the multi-purpose canisters of used fuel to its proposed Hi-Store consolidated interim storage facility in southeast New Mexico, which is currently undergoing licensing review by the NRC.

The 680 MWe single boiling water reactor Pilgrim plant, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, was shut down permanently on 31 May after 47 years in operation. Entergy at that time said the decision to close the plant was the result of a number of financial factors, including low wholesale energy prices. The company is in the process of withdrawing from merchant power markets but said it remains committed to the continued operation of the five nuclear power units in its regulated utility business - Arkansas Nuclear One units 1 and 2, plus single unit plants at Grand Gulf in Mississippi, and River Bend and Waterford 3 in Louisiana.

Chairman and CEO Leo Denault yesterday said the Pilgrim transaction demonstrated continued progress on Entergy's ongoing merchant power market exit. "With our previously-announced signed agreements for the post-shutdown sales of Indian Point and Palisades nuclear power plants in 2021 and 2022, respectively, we remain on track to accomplish our exit plan," he said.

Decommissioning work at Pilgrim, including demolition and site clean-up, is to be carried out under contract by Comprehensive Decommissioning International LLC, a joint venture of Holtec Internaional and SNC-Lavalin.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Tuesday, 27 August 2019
Original article: world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Pilgrim-sale-completed-after-regulatory-approval