Thursday, November 18, 2021

PG&E Reactor Officially Decommissioned, Nuclear Waste Not

Posted By on Thu, Nov 18, 2021 at 2:01 PM

click to enlarge The Humboldt Bay Nuclear Plant operated at King Salmon from 1963 to 1976 and has taken $1.1 billion to decommission. - FILE
  • File
  • The Humboldt Bay Nuclear Plant operated at King Salmon from 1963 to 1976 and has taken $1.1 billion to decommission.
PG&E’s Humboldt Nuclear Power Plant reactor site was deemed fully cleaned up by the Nucle ar Regulatory Commission today. While the federal government no longer has oversight over that part of the site — “none at all,” said commission spokesperson David McIntyre — the spent fuel and other radioactive waste, however, remains under federal jurisdiction.

The former reactor site has no requirement to be monitored for radiation. “There’s no need for it. There’s no accident scenario” in which a radiation release to the environment from that part of PG&E’s plant could occur, according to McIntyre. It could, according to regulators, even be used for farming.

PG&E is required to maintain the area above Buhne Point where spent fuel is stored, “until fuel is removed,” McIntyre said. That means the utility is responsible for “physical security, mostly fences and guards,” he added.

Environmental security is another story, however. When asked about responsibility to keep the site secure from the threat of a radioactive release due to a tsunami, sea level rise or some other environmental event, McIntyre said he would check and then got back to the Journal with an update.

"PG&E, the licensee, is responsible for maintaining its safety and security until the fuel is removed from the site," he said. "I am advised that the storage casks are below grade, as an additional protection against earthquakes, and they are located on high ground above the town, so sea level rise and tsunamis are not considered a threat to the safety of the facility."

Environmental groups, however, remain concerned sea level rise will very much be an issue at the site. Read more about the nuclear plant's history and legacy, which some fear could stretch thousands of years into the future, in previous Journal coverage here.
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J.A. Savage

J.A. Savage

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J.A. Savage is an environmental and economics journalist specializing in energy.

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