Nuclear Plant's Tear-Down Is Template

From the Wall Street Journal:

Exelon Corp. shut its Zion nuclear power plant 12 years ago rather than make costly repairs. Now, after spending more than $132 million babysitting it on the shore of Lake Michigan, the big nuclear operator is ready to have it torn down.

On Wednesday, Chicago-based Exelon, the nation's largest owner of nuclear plants, is expected to transfer its Zion nuclear licenses to EnergySolutions Inc., a nuclear waste storage and services firm in Salt Lake City, Utah, giving it full control of the Illinois site so it can oversee the demolition.

Both companies say the arrangement could provide utilities with a template for disposing of nuclear plants past their useful lives. It lets a utility focus on its business and puts a contractor in charge of demolition. The contractor receives government-mandated funds set aside years ago for plant closures.

Most of the recent focus on nuclear energy has concerned the cost of building new plants. But there's anxiety about dealing with old plants, too. Plant demolition poses a challenge because some equipment is radioactive and requires special handling. Radioactive waste must be sent to licensed sites or put in special storage, at the site.

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