Nuclear Research and Development: Shippingport Decommissioning--How Applicable Are the Lessons Learned?

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-09-04.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)


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                                NUCLEAR RESiQiRCH
                                AND DEVELOPMENT
                                How Applicable Are
                                the Lessons Learned?

(;,A20 KWD-W-2i)Sf        ---
  United States
  General Accounting Office
  Washington, D.C. 20548

  Resources, Community, and
  Economic Development Division


  September 4, 1990

  The Honorable Robert A. Roe
  Chairman, Committee on Science,
    Space, and Technology
  House of Representatives

  The Honorable Robert S. Walker
  Ranking Minority Member, Committee on
    Science, Space, and Technology
  House of Representatives

  In July 1989 you asked for information about the Department of
  Energy’s (DOE) decommissioning of the Shippingport, Pennsylvania,
  nuclear power plant. You wanted to know whether DOE had met the
  goals described at the July 1986 hearings before your Committee. DOE’S
  goals were to

. demonstrate that a large nuclear plant can be decommissioned safely
  and within the costs ($98.3 million) and time frame (April 1990)
. optimize contractor involvement to help transfer information to the pri-
  vate sector, and
. develop information to assist the nuclear industry with future decom-
  missioning projects.

  Specifically, you asked us to answer nine questions relating to these
  goals (app. II provides detailed answers to your questions). We are also
  providing some perspective on additional information that could assist
  the commercial nuclear power industry that was not addressed by Ship-
  pingport. We previously addressed some of the lessons learned from
  Shippingport in a June 1990 report to Representative Fazio who was
  interested in the relationship between Shippingport and the Ranch0
  Seco, California, plant1 This report provides more details about Ship
  pingport’s decommissioning and addresses the usefulness of Ship-
  pingport’s decommissioning to such commercial plants as Pathfinder,
  Peach Bottom, and Fort St. Vrain located in South Dakota, Penn-
  sylvania, and Colorado, respectively.

  ‘Nuclear R&D: UsefuIness of Information From Shippingport Decommissioning for Ranch0 Seco
  (GAO/KcEb-90-171, June 7,199O).

  Page 1                                      GAO/RCED-W208      Shippingport   Decommissioning

                       DOE  generally met the goals that it had established for Shippingport. It
Results in Brief       completed all decommissioning activities in December 1989-4 months
                       ahead of schedule-at a cost of $91.3 million-$7 million under its 1986
                       estimated cost. According to some utility representatives, the most sig-
                       nificant benefit of Shippingport was that DOE demonstrated that tech-
                       nology existed to decommission a plant within the costs and time frame
                       established. In addition, DOE used over eight contractors on the project
                       and produced numerous annual or topical reports that officials believe
                       will be useful to the commercial nuclear industry.

                       Although Shippingport increased the knowledge for decommissioning
                       nuclear power plants, the benefits of the lessons learned will vary
                       depending upon the timing and the decommissioning approaches
                       selected by utilities. Very few utilities will be able to decommission their
                       plants the way DOE decommissioned Shippingport, and it is possible that
                       newer technology may be available by the time utilities do so. To illus-
                       trate, Shippingport was much smaller and less radioactively contami-
                       nated than other plants, and DOE removed the most highly radioactive
                       component, the reactor pressure vessel, in one piece. Utilities operating
                       commercial plants will probably have to disassemble (cut-up) the
                       reactor pressure vessels because of their much larger size. Also, DOE dis-
                       posed of all the low-level radioactive waste from the decommissioning
                       activities at its Hanford, Washington, facility. Utilities will have to dis-
                       pose of waste at commercial sites at substantially higher costs.

                       In the mid-1950s, DOE and the Duquesne Light Company entered into a
Overview of the        contract to build Shippingport and demonstrate electricity generation
Shippingport Project   using nuclear power. On December 2, 1957, Shippingport, a 72-megawatt
                       pressurized water reactor,z became the nation’s first operating nuclear
                       power plant. Over its 25-year life, the plant operated for about 80,324
                       hours and produced about 7.4-billion kilowatt-hours of electricity.

                       Under the contract, DOE owned the reactor and steam-generating por-
                       tions of the plant while the utility owned the electricity-generating por-
                       tion. According to a DOE official, the contract required DOE to return the
                       site to safe conditions on or before 1994. Accordingly, in September
                       1985 DOE began the physical decommissioning of Shippingport. DOE com-
                       pleted these activities in July 1989, including dismantlement of the

                       %-essurized water reactors are those cooM by water that is kept at hiih pressure to prevent it from
                       boiling. The water passes through the nuclear fuel and is heated. The heat is then transferred to a
                       secondary system where steam is pmduced.

                       Page 2                                         GAO/llCED~208       Shippineport Decommissioning

                       nonradioactive structures; certified in October 1989 that the site was
                       radiologically safe; and issued a final report on the project in December

                       In addition, DOE removed the fuel and sent it to its Idaho National Engi-
                       neering Laboratory and disposed of about 216,000 cubic feet of low-
                       level radioactive or mixed (radioactive and hazardous) waste at its Han-
                       ford, Washington, facility. Also, DOE removed the reactor pressure vessel
                       intact and shipped it by barge to Hanford for disposal.

                       the decommissioning activities in December 1989-4 months ahead of
                       schedule-and $7 million under the estimated $98.3 million cost. Also,
                       DOE used over eight contractors for various decommissioning activities
                       to optimize contractor involvement and developed an extensive amount
                       of data that officials believe will help future decommissioning projects.

Between Shippingport   significant differences between Shippingport and other reactors and the
and Commercial         manner in which Shippingport was decommissioned, it is questionable
                       whether the lessons learned can be extensively applied to larger, more
Plants                 contaminated nuclear power plants that will be decommissioned in the
                       future. For example, Shippingport was different from commercial plants
                       because (1) the plant was more radiologically clean than other plants at
                       the time of its shutdown, (2) DOE disposed of the pressure vessel in one
                       piece instead of cutting it up or letting the radiation decay over many
                       years before starting decommissioning, (3) DOE had predetermined sites
                       to dispose of the spent fuel and low-level3 and mixed waste, and (4) DOE
                       had an elaborate management structure to conduct and oversee the
                       decommissioning activities.

                       3Low-level waste is waste that is not classified as uranium mill tailin@, high-level waste, or spent fuel
                       and consists of discarded tools, rags, machinery, paper, protective clothing, and other items.

                       Page 3                                           GAO/~BO-2OS          Shippingport Decommissioning

Low Radioactive                          Over the plant’s lifetime, some decontamination activities had been con-
                                         ducted; therefore, Shippingport-including    the reactor pressure
Contamination                            vessel4-was more radiologically clean than might be expected for a
                                         commercial plant. DOE estimates that at the time of shutdown the
                                         reactor pressure vessel contained about 30,000 curies” of radioactive
                                         material. Table 1 shows the estimated curie content for four plants that
                                         have been shut down, are awaiting the start of decommissioning, or
                                         have been partially decommissioned.

Table 1: Comprrison of Shipph’qport to
Four 0th~ Plant@                                                                                                                ElOCtdC
                                                                                                                                   enentod7     n
                                                                                               Amount of           Hours        bi I ion kUowatt-
                                         Plants                Maaawatts         TEtZ!            curios         OCWOtOd                   houm1
                                         Shippingport                       72       PWRb          >30,000c        80,324                     >7.4*
                                         Fort St. Vrain                    330      HTGC*           900,ooo        21,360                       4.3
                                         Pathfinder                         62       BWR’            30,ooo        12,000                         .l
                                         Peach Bottom                       40      HTGC      >3.ooo.oooQ          32,375                       1.4
                                         Ranch0 Seco                       913       PWR      >9,ooo,ooo”          51,595                      44.0
                                         aAlthough the plants shown in table 1 differ in design and size from Shippingport, the information is
                                         useful for illustrative purposes.
                                         bPressurized water reactor.
                                         CGreaterthan 30,000 curies.
                                         *Greater than 7.4 billion kilowatt-hours
                                         eHigh-temperature gas-cooled reactor.
                                         ‘Boiling water reactor.
                                         gGreater than 3 million curies
                                         hGreater than 9 million curies.

                                         The utilities that own Fort St. Vrain and Ranch0 Seco expect to decom-
                                         mission or convert the plants to use other fuel; the utility that owns
                                         Pathfinder partially dismantled the plant in 1968 after shipping the fuel
                                         off-site. In 1990 the utility expects to start dismantling other parts of
                                         Pathfinder and complete these activities by the end of 1991. In addition,
                                         utilities owning seven small nuclear plants, including Peach Bottom,

                                         4Generdly, reactor vessels are large, steel cylindrical vessels that can weigh almost 1,000 tons and
                                         vary from about 46 to 70 feet in height. The walls of the vessels range from about 7- to 1l-inches
                                         thick. Shippingport’s vessel weighed about 163 tons and was about 26 feet high.
                                         “A curie is a measure of the rate of radioactive decay.

                                         P8ge 4                                             GAO/RcEDscrzoe      Shippingport   Decommisdoning

                       have started to decontaminate them and put them into “safe storage”
                       until a site is available to dispose of the high-level waste.”

Pressure Vessel        DOE  removed the pressure vessel from Shippingport in one piece. The
                       pressure vessel is the most highly contaminated part of a nuclear power
Decommissioning        plant. Although removing the vessel in one piece minimized worker
                       exposure to radiation and reduced costs by about $7 million, DOE’S
                       approach did not provide the nuclear industry with information on the
                       problems that may be encountered if utilities must cut-up this compo-
                       nent. According to an official, other DOE decommissioning projects will
                       cut-up reactor pressure vessels.

                       Three of the four utilities that we visited could not dispose of the pres-
                       sure vessel in the same manner that DOE used at Shippingport. According
                       to utility executives from Fort St. Vrain, Peach Bottom, and Ranch0
                       Seco, the size of the pressure vessels and the radioactive contamination
                       they contain will preclude their shipping and disposing of this compo-
                       nent in one piece. Only the utility that owns Pathfinder, whose reactor
                       pressure vessel (32 feet by 12 feet) was about the same size as Ship-
                       pingport (25 feet by 10 feet), said it expected to dispose of the vessel in
                       one piece at a commercial site operated by US. Ecology in Richland,

Waste Management and   DOE  had predetermined sites to dispose of the spent (used) fuel from
                       Shippingport as well as the low-level and mixed waste generated from
Disposal               decommissioning activities. DOE sent the spent fuel to its Idaho National
                       Engineering Laboratory. Currently, no disposal site exists for the spent
                       fuel from commercial plants; DOE expects that the earliest a permanent
                       site would be available is 2010.

                       Also, according to DOE officials, Shippingport did not generate any of the
                       most highly radioactive low-level waste that can remain hazardous for a
                       few hundred to tens of thousands of years (greater-than-Class C).i
                       According to utility officials, Fort St. Vrain is expected to generate
                       about 142 cubic feet of greater-than-Class C waste, and Ranch0 Seco will

                       “Humboldt Bay 3, California; Fermi 1, Michigan; Indian Point 1, New York; Vallecitos Boiling Water
                       Reactor, California; Dresden 1, Illinois; Lacrosse, Wisconsin, and Peach Bottom 1, Pennsylvania.

                       ‘About 3 percent of low-level waste-greater-than-Class C-ii contaminated with long-lived radioac-
                       tive elements having concentrations greater than those specified in 10 C.F.R. Part 61 of NRC’s

                       Page 5                                         GAO/RCED-9MOE       Shippingport   Decommissioning

                       also generate such waste although officials could not estimate the
                       volume. Currently, no disposal site exists for such waste generated from
                       commercial operations.

                       Further, DOE disposed of other low-level waste at Hanford at signifi-
                       cantly lower costs than utilities will experience. DOE disposed of about
                       214,000 cubic feet of waste for about $2.4 million (including the reactor
                       pressure vessel). In 1986 low-level waste disposal costs at Hanford were
                       $3.96 per cubic foot; by 1989 the cost had increased to about $27.60 per
                       cubic foot, excluding packaging, transportation, labor, materials, taxes,
                       or surcharges allowed by the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act,
                       as amended.* After January 1993 low-level waste disposal costs could
                       range from $50 to $590 or more per cubic foot as a result of the new
                       facilities-possibly  as many as 16-that will be built by states or inter-
                       state compacts to comply with the act and dispose of low-level waste.
                       For example, utility officials estimate that decommissioning Ranch0
                       Seco will generate about 775,000 cubic feet of low-level waste and dis-
                       posal costs could total about $24 million.

Management Structure   Because of the research and demonstration nature of Shippingport, DOE
                       used an elaborate management structure to decommission the plant. DOE
                       used over eight contractors to conduct the physical activities and three
                       other contractors to oversee the activities conducted. According to DOE’S
                       Program Manager, DOE recognizes that utilities may not be able to insti-
                       tute the same type of management structure to decommission commer-
                       cial plants. Further, at least 30 percent of DOE’S costs related to physical
                       decommissioning activities; the remaining 70 percent included engi-
                       neering, oversight, management, and other activities, such as waste dis-
                       posal. Utilities, faced with setting aside funds to decommission their
                       plants and subject to scrutiny by public service commissions when doing
                       so, most likely will not incur as high a level of oversight and manage-
                       ment costs relative to physical decommissioning costs that occurred
                       with Shippingport.

                       “To encoursge the development of new low-level wsste disposal sites, the act established surcharges
                       ranging from S10 to $40 per cubic foot of waste disposed of between July lQEl6and December 1992
                       and penalties of up to $120 per cubic foot of waste during calendar year 1992. In 1989 the surcharge
                       was $20 per cubic foot.

                       Page 6                                         GAO/ItCED~2OS        Shippingport Demmnisaioaing

                         The applicability of the lessons learned from Shippingport will vary
Application of Lessons   depending upon when utilities start to decommission their plants and
Learned Is               the similarity of their efforts to the way that Shippingport was decom-
Questionable             missioned. Thus, the lessons learned from Shippingport may diminish by
                         the time a large number of utilities decommission their plants, The
                         Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which issues licenses to, and
                         oversees the safe operation of, commercial plants, estimates that by the
                         year 2015 about one-half of the existing 113 operating licenses will ter-
                         minate, and most of the remaining licenses will expire by about 2030.

                         However, utilities can apply to NRC to extend the plants’ operating
                         licenses, and because of the high cost of building new plants, a strong
                         likelihood exists that utilities will do so. NRC currently expects that the
                         license extension will be for 20 additional years. Also, under NRC'S regu-
                         lations, utilities can take as long as 60 years to complete decommis-
                         sioning activities. Therefore, utilities may not decommission a large
                         number of plants until well into the 21st century and new technology,
                         such as remotely operated equipment and robotics, may lessen the use-
                         fulness of the technology used at Shippingport.

                         Utility officials that we contacted expressed various opinions about the
                         usefulness of Shippingport to their circumstances. An official from
                         Peach Bottom said that Shippingport provided useful information on
                         constructing platforms to dismantle the plant and using a plasma arc
                         torch to cut-up some components, but most other information would not
                         be useful to decommissioning Peach Bottom. Ranch0 Seco officials said
                         that DOE briefed them on dismantling Shippingport, and the report on
                         asbestos removal will be applicable to their activities.” In addition, Fort
                         St. Vrain officials said that they will use Shippingport’s information to
                         develop a decommissioning plan for the plant. Further, according to
                         Humboldt Bay officials, they will not need specifics on decommissioning
                         for at least 20 years, and until then, they could not determine whether
                         Shippingport will be useful.

                         One objective of the Shippingport project was to demonstrate that a
Shippingport Did Not     nuclear power plant could be safely and economically decommissioned
Increase Basic           using existing technology, such as manually dismantling radioactive
ResearchKnowledge        piping systems and components. Thus, DOE did not design the project to
                         increase the basic research and development knowledge on methods or

                         “Shippingport Station Decommissioning Project, Asbestos Removal Topical Report, Mar. 18. 1988.

                         Page7                                         GAO/RCED9W208      Shippingport   Decommissioning
              equipment needed to decommission a large plant. According to DOE offi-
              cials, they relied on technology the nuclear industry used for the last 30
              years to construct, maintain, or demolish plant systems and components.
              As a result, DOE did not need, nor was it required, to develop new tech-
              nology, such as robotics, to decommission Shippingport.

              Nevertheless, DOE recognizes that the nuclear industry could benefit
              from information in such areas as (1) decontamination methods, (2)
              waste reduction and minimization techniques, (3) methods to determine
              the specific radioactive materials and levels of contamination in waste,
              and (4) robotics for facility and plant equipment disassembly. In this
              regard, DOE has embarked on a 5-year program to develop new tech-
              nology for the clean up of uranium enrichment, fabrication, and
              reprocessing facilities as well as plutonium production reactors. As part
              of this effort, DOE recognizes that the development of robotics and/or
              remote systems may be the only means to safely conduct decommis-
              sioning activities in highly radioactively contaminated facilities and
              minimize worker exposures.

              In addition, DOE is exchanging information with the United Kingdom and
              Japan. The United Kingdom is decommissioning two gas-cooled reac-
              tors-Windscale     and Berkeley-and   is assessing the need to use
              robotics. Japan is funding a major demonstration project to decommis-
              sion a nuclear reactor about 100 miles northeast of Tokyo. As part of
              the project, Japan has stimulated private sector research and develop-
              ment by inviting most of the country’s largest industrial firms to
              develop advanced techniques for future decommissioning projects. In
              particular, the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute in conjunction
              with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries developed a robotic arm to cut-up the
              reactor’s internal parts, which were then put into a pool of water where
              they were further cut-up by a robotic saw developed by Hitachi.

              In addition to international efforts, General Public Utilities has been
              using robotics to remove fuel and conduct other activities at the dam-
              aged Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, plant. Although the accident cre-
              ated cleanup problems that should not be experienced at other plants,
              utilities may derive more useful information from the activities con-
              ducted at Three Mile Island than from Shippingport, particularly efforts
              to minimize worker exposures that were minimal at Shippingport.

Conclusions   pingport by completing these activities 4 months ahead of schedule and

              Page 8                             GAO/ItCEB2tS208 Shippingpor& Decommissioning

$7 million under the estimated cost for the project. It also utilized con-
tractors to conduct various decommissioning activities to extend the
experience and knowledge to the private sector. However, because Ship-
pingport was a smaller reactor and less radioactive than other reactors,
lessons learned from its decommissioning are limited. For example,
because Shippingport had a small pressure vessel, DOE was able to dis-
pose of it whole whereas future pressure vessels will probably have to
be cut up, thus increasing worker exposure to hazardous nuclear

Further, many years may elapse before utilities dismantle a large
number of plants. In the interim, decommissioning activities being con-
ducted on higher radioactivity contaminated pressure vessels here and
abroad will advance the state-of-the-art beyond the lessons learned at
Shippingport, and information that will be developed under DOE'S
recently announced initiatives and by the United Kingdom, Japan, and
Three Mile Island may be more useful than Shippingport. These efforts
are directed at identifying new technology to reduce worker exposures,

To obtain this information, we contacted NRC, DOE, utility, and industry
officials and reviewed numerous reports that DOE had prepared on the
project. Our objectives, scope, and methodology are discussed in detail in
appendix I. Appendix II contains responses to the questions raised in
your request. Appendix III summarizes the decommissioning efforts of
the four utilities that we visited.

We discussed the facts in the report with NRC, DOE, and utility officials
and incorporated their views where appropriate. As requested, we did
not obtain official agency comments on a draft of this report. Our work
was conducted between August 1989 and June 1990 in accordance with
generally accepted government auditing standards.

As arranged with your office, unless you publicly announce its contents
earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report until 30 days from
the date of this letter. At that time we will provide copies to Representa-
tive Fazio; the Secretary of Energy; and the Chairman, NRC. We will also
make copies available to others upon request.

P8ge 9                             GAO/WED-90-208   Shippingport   Decommissioning

 Please call me at (202) 275-1441 if you have any questions. Other major
 contributors to this report are listed in appendix IV.

Victor S. Rezendes
Director, Energy Issues

Page 10
Page 11

Letter                                                                                                         1

Appendix I                                                                                                 14
Objectives, Scope,and
Appendix II                                                                                                16
Questions Asked
Concerning the
Decommissioning of
Appendix III                                                                                               22
CaseStudies on Four     Pathfinder                                                                         22
Nuclear Power Plants    ~~~~~~ Unit1                                                                       23
                        Ranch0 Seco                                                                        24

Appendix IV                                                                                                26
Major Contributors to
This Report
Tables                  Table 1: Comparison of Shippingport to Four Other Plants                               4
                        Table II. 1: Breakdown of Project Costs and Forecasted                             17
                            Labor Hours Used to Decommission Shippingport


                        DOE          Department of Energy
                        EPA          Environmental Protection Agency
                        GAO          General Accounting Office
                        NRC          Nuclear Regulatory Commission
                        ORAU         Oak Ridge Associated Universities
                        SMUD         Sacramento Municipal Utility District

                        Pa@ 12                                GAO/lUXD8@208   Shippingport   Decommissioning
P8ge 13   GAO/RCED&bS2Xb   Shippingport Deeommiasioning
Appendix I

Objectives, Scope,and Methodology

               On July 21, 1989, the Chairman and the Ranking Minority Member,
               House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, asked us for infor-
               mation about the Department of Energy’s (DOE) decommissioning of the
               Shippingport, Pennsylvania, nuclear power plant. Specifically, we were
               asked to (1) determine whether DOE had met the goals described at July
               1986 hearings before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Tech-
               nology and (2) answer nine questions, some with several parts to them.

               To obtain the information needed, we reviewed the Atomic Energy Act,
               the Energy Reorganization Act, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
               (NRC) regulations and guidelines. We also reviewed numerous DOE
               reports related to decommissioning Shippingport, such as the final envi-
               ronmental impact statement, annual progress reports, and topical
               reports relating to asbestos, contaminated concrete, and pressure vessel
               removal. We also reviewed DOE’S final report on the project and the
               results of a survey conducted by Oak Ridge Associated Universities to
               confirm DOE’S assessment of the radiological condition of the site. We
               also used information from five of our reports1

               In addition, we met or spoke with NRC staff in the Office of Nuclear Reg-
               ulatory Research, DOE officials from the Office of Remedial Action and
               Waste Technology, and officials from the National Academy of Sciences,
               the Electric Power Research Institute, Oak Ridge Associated Universi-
               ties, General Electric, French and British embassies, TLG Engineering,
               Inc., Nuclear Management Resources Council, American Nuclear Society,
               Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Worldwatch Institute, and Arkansas
               Power and Light.

               We also contacted utilities that own the Peach Bottom, Pathfinder, Fort
               St. Vrain, Ranch0 Seco, and Humboldt Bay plants. We selected these
               plants because they have been shut down awaiting decommissioning or
               have been partially decommiss’loned. For example, in a June 1989 refer-
               endum, Californians voted to shut down Ranch0 Seco. Also in 1989, Fort
               St. Vrain officials decided to shut down the plant after years of oper-
               ating problems. The utility that owns one Peach Bottom unit has started
               to decommission the plant. In addition, Northern States Power, which

               Page 14                           GAO/lKXD-W206   Shippingport   Decommissioning
Appendix I
Objectives, Scope, and Methodohgy

owns Pathfinder, had partially decommissioned the plant in 1968. Fur-
ther, we spoke to a Humboldt Bay official because we were told that the
plant was similar in design to Shippingport and has been partially

Page 16                             GAO/RCED9MOS   ShippIngport   Decommissioning
Appendix II

Responsesto QuestionsAsked concerning the
Decommissioningof Shippingport

              1. For how long and at what power levels did Shippingport operate over
              its lifetime? What were the total operating hours? How much time
              elapsed between the shutdown and start of decommissioning activities?
              What was the radiation level of the reactor at the outset of

              Over its 25-year life, Shippingport operated for about 80,324 hours, pro-
              duced about 7.4-billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, and operated at
              power levels of 60,150, and 72 megawatts. The plant was shut down in
              October 1982 and physical decommissioning activities began in Sep-
              tember 1985, almost 3 years later. At the time of shutdown, the radioac-
              tivity in the pressure vessel was about 30,000 curies; at the outset of
              decommissioning, about 16,000 curies.

              2. Was the cost of the project consistent with the $98.3 million estimate
              that DOE presented at the July 1986 hearings? What were the actual
              costs and hours for labor, materials, equipment, and waste disposal?

              DOE   completed the Shippingport project for $91.3 million, or $7 million
               less than estimated. Because DOE kept costs and labor hours for the pro-
              ject by activity, such as engineering, decommissioning, and site manage-
               ment and support, we could not determine the costs or labor hours in the
               format requested. However, table II. 1 shows the project’s costs and
               labor hours based on DOE’s work breakdown structure.

              Page 16                            GAO/IKXD-W2@3   Shippingport Decommissioning
                                        &qonses    to Questions Asked Concerning
                                        the Decomndseioning    of Shippingport

Table 11.1:Breakdown of Project Costs
and Forecasted Labor Hours Used to                                                                         Total costs            Labor (in
Decommission Shippingport               Description                                                          (Millions)            months)
                                        Engineenng (Phase I)                                                        $6.1                   NAa
                                        Project management                                                          10.6                  719
                                        Site management and services                                                 6.8                  584
                                        Support and services                                                        23.5                3,589
                                        Engineering                                                                  1.1                    19
                                        Procurement                                                                  0.7                     0
                                        Solid waste management                                                       2.1                  185
                                        System operations support                                                    1.7                  116
                                        Utilities                                                                    1.6                     0
                                        Liquid waste management                                                      1.3                   87
                                        Subtotal: Site management and support                                       38.8                4,580
                                        Site modifications and services                                              5.2                  482
                                        Reactor pressure vessel preparation, removal, and
                                           transport                                                                 6.5                  222
                                        Remove piping and equipment                                                  6.6                  601
                                        Remove primary components                                                    1.3                   105
                                        Remove power and control systems                                             0.5                   111
                                        Remove structures                                                            5.9                  285
                                        Remove containment chambers                                                  0.4                    35
                                        Decontamination                                                              2.3                  457
                                        Subtotal: DecommissioninQ         aCtiVitie8                                28.7                2,298
                                        Home off ice support                                                          1.6                  40
                                        Decommissioning operations fee                                                5.4                   .
                                        Other                                                                         0.2                   .
                                        Total                                                                       91.3b               7,63Sb
                                        aDOE did not have information showrng the labor hours used during the early engrneering phase
                                        bTotals do not add due to rounding.

                                        At least 30 percent of the costs shown in table II.1 directly relate to the
                                        physical decommissioning of the plant; the remaining 70 percent
                                        includes engineering, oversight, management, and other activities.

                                        3. Did DOE and General Electric maintain the project schedule’? Can any
                                        lessons learned lead to shorter schedules in future decommissioning

                                        DOE  completed Shippingport in December 1989,4 months earlier than
                                        the expected April 1990 date. The only significant delay occurred early
                                        in the project when the contractor decided to remove asbestos all at once
                                        rather than throughout the project. Of the 36 control milestones for the

                                        Page 17                                         GAO/RCED-9@208      Shippingport    Decommissioning
      Responees to Questions Asked Concerning
      the Decommisaiining of Shippingport

      project, General Electric completed 16 earlier and 20 later than planned.
      According to DOE and utility officials that we contacted, Shippingport
      did not provide any specific lessons learned that could reduce schedules
      for future decommissioning projects. However, some utility officials rec-
      ognize the need for effective up-front planning as occurred with

      4. How has the project benefited the nuclear power industry? Has Ship-
      pingport identified areas for cost reductions in future decommissioning

      The transferability of the lessons learned from Shippingport to the com-
      mercial nuclear power industry varies depending on the needs of the
      individual contacted. The most significant benefit, according to some
      utility executives, is DOE demonstrated that technology exists to decom-
      mission a plant within the costs and time frame established. Others
      believe that only minimal benefits have been derived because DOE
      removed the reactor pressure vessel in one piece and did not use any
      new technology, such as robotics. Still others indicated that the value of
      Shippingport will decrease over time.

      Currently, 11 commercial plants have been shut down, and the licenses
      for about one-half of the 113 operating plants will most likely not expire
      until the year 2015. Most of the remaining licenses will expire by about
      2030. Prior to that, utilities will decide whether to shut the plants down
      or seek a license extension from NRC. NRC currently expects that the
      license extension period will be 20 years. Also, under NRC'S regulations,
      utilities can take as long as 60 years to complete decommissioning activi-
      ties. Therefore, many years may elapse before utilities begin to decom-
      mission a large number of plants.

      Utility officials identified a few areas in which Shippingport may allow
      them to reduce future decommissioning costs. The areas cited include
      planning and scheduling, removing asbestos, and removing hazardous
      waste. The officials could not, however, estimate the savings that could
      be realized.

      5. As a result of the Shippingport project, can the site be released for
      unrestricted use?

      In October 1989 DOE certified that the site met the release criteria that
      had been established for Shippingport. DOE had required that public

      Page18                                    GAO/lKEDW208   Shippingport Decommissioning

Reqtonsem to Questions Aaked Concerning
the DeeolNniMi~      of Shippingport

exposures from the remaining contamination should not exceed 100 mil-
lirem’ a year, and the level should be reduced if reasonably achievable
to do so. DOE documentation indicates that public exposures will be less
than 2 millirem annually. DOE contracted with the Oak Ridge Associated
Universities (ORAU)to confirm its analyses. ORAUfound some contami-
nated areas, and General Electric conducted additional cleanup activities
to ORAU’Ssatisfaction. In its November 1989 report, ORAUindicated that
DOE had effectively decontaminated and decommissioned the site.

6. Has Shippingport validated NRC’Sdecommissioning regulations?

Little relationship exists between NRC’Sdecommissioning regulations and
the Shippingport project. NRC’Sregulations primarily address decommis-
sioning planning needs, timing, funding methods, and environmental
review. The intent of NRC’Sregulations is to ensure that utilities decom-
mission nuclear power plants in a safe and timely manner and that ade-
quate funds will be available to conduct the needed activities.
Shippingport’s costs cannot be used to validate NRC’Sgeneric estimate-
$105 million for a pressurized water reactor-because utilities will not
be able to use the same methods and management structure that DOE

For example, most utilities will not be able to dispose of their reactor
pressure vessels in one piece and will experience significantly higher
low-level waste disposal costs than the $2.4 million (including the pres-
sure vessel) that DOEincurred for Shippingport. Further, utilities will
probably have to dispose of some greater-than-Class C waste. Ship-
pingport, according to DOEofficials, did not generate such waste.
Because of these and other differences, Shippingport cannot be used to
validate some of the costs that utilities will experience when decommis-
sioning large plants.

In addition, Shippingport was not licensed by NRC;therefore, DOE did not
have to obtain NRC’Sapproval for the decommissioning activities con-
ducted at the plant. Further, no federal agency or utility official that we
contacted could identify any changes that should be made to NRC’Sregu-
lations as a result of Shippingport.

We noted, however, that DOE set a 100 millirem per person per year
residual contamination limit for Shippingport. NRChas been suggesting

lAmilliremisa thousandth of a rem (Roentgen Equivalent Man), which is the measurement used to
quantify the effects of radiation on man.

                                            GAO/RCED-9lKUX3     Shippingport   Decommissioning
Appendix JJ
Responsea to Questions Asked Concerning
the Decommissioning   of Shippingport

that utilities decontaminate to a level that would limit public exposures
to 10 millirem a year-10 times less than DOE required. Ultimately, the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for setting the
limits of residual contamination that can remain on-site. EPA has been
developing such standards for several years but does not expect to make
them final until 1993 at the earliest.

7. What changes should be incorporated in planning future decommis-
sioning projects as a result of Shippingport? How should decommis-
sioning plans incorporate improved methods to reduce worker

DOE spent over $6 million developing a decommissioning plan for the
project. According to a DOE official, the planning conducted helped the
project to be completed on time and under cost and allowed them to keep
worker exposures within established limits. In the decommissioning
plan, DOE'S contractor proposed a worker exposure limit of about 1,010
person-rem for the project; the actual exposure was 155 person-rem. In
addition, DOE completed the project without any serious radiological
incidents, according to officials. Utility executives that we contacted
said the lessons learned from DOE'S planning efforts could facilitate their
planning for future decommissioning projects.

However, Shippingport provided only limited information to reduce
worker exposures on future projects where the pressure vessel would be
cut-up. Shippingport was more radiologically clean at the start of
decommissioning than could be expected for a much larger commercial
plant (1,000 megawatts or greater). Also, DOE removed the most highly
radioactive component-the   reactor pressure vessel-in one piece.

8. What specific examples exist showing that Shippingport’s technology
transfer activities influenced other decommissioning projects, such as
Three Mile Island? What special equipment did DOE use at Shippingport?

With the exception of Northern States Power that plans to remove the
pressure vessel from Pathfinder in one piece, specific examples showing
that Shippingport influenced other decommissioning projects do not
exist. DOE developed extensive information on Shippingport, but the use-
fulness of the data will diminish the longer utilities wait to decommis-
sion their plants.

In addition, DOE did not develop any new technology, such as remotely
operated equipment or robotics, to decommission Shippingport because

Page 20                                   GAO/RCJ3DCllX2O8   Shippingport   Decommissioning
the Deconuniaaio~    of Skippingport

one of the project’s objectives was to demonstrate that a nuclear plant
could be safely and economically decommissioned using existing tech-
nology. Further, some of the lessons learned from the cleanup of the
damaged Three Mile Island plant may be more useful to utilities than

9. Did DOE use information developed overseas to plan for, and decom-
mission, Shippingport?

According to DOE officials, foreign countries did not provide any infor-
mation that was used to help with decommissioning Shippingport.
Although Japanese officials discussed their research and development
projects with DOE, the agency determined that these activities were not
cost-effective because of the exotic robotic techniques that were
involved. A DOE official further said that he was aware of other interna-
tional decommissioning projects, but the information was not applicable
because the purpose of Shlppingport was to demonstrate decommis-
sioning techniques using present technology. However, foreign nationals
from Japan, United Kingdom, and other countries participated in some
of Shippingport’s decommissioning activities. In addition, through its
technology transfer program, DOE has provided both domestic and inter-
national utilities a great deal of information about the project.

Page 21                                GAO/RCESWX208   Shippinoport   Decommidoning
Appendix III

CaseStudies on Four Nuclear Power Plants

               Pathfinder, a 62-megawatt boiling water reactor’ owned by Northern
Pathfinder     States Power Company, operated from 1964 to 1967. The plant, located
               about 6 miles from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was shut down after
               investigations disclosed serious flaws with some components within the
               reactor pressure vessel. During its limited life, Pathfinder operated for
               about 12,000 hours, generating about 0. l-billion kilowatt-hours of elec-
               tricity. At the time the plant was shut down, the radioactivity in the
               pressure vessel was about 30,000 curies.

               Northern States started to decontaminate the plant in 1968 after
               removing the fuel and shipping it off-site. The utility also removed
               almost all contaminated pipe outside the reactor and fuel handling
               buildings and drained and filled the reactor pressure vessel with gravel.
               The utility did not decontaminate the piping system inside the reactor
               building or remove any of the pipe. After partially decontaminating the
               reactor and fuel handling buildings, Northern States sealed the areas to
               prevent unauthorized access.

               In 1990 Northern States expects to begin decontaminating the previ-
               ously sealed areas. The utility plans to dispose of most low-level radio-
               active waste, including the reactor pressure vessel and the shipping
               package, at a commercial site operated by US. Ecology in Richland,
               Washington. Because of the weight (78 tons) and size (12 feet x 32 feet)
               of the pressure vessel and the shipping package, the utility plans to rent
               a special rail car and train to transport it.

               Company officials said that the decontamination activities completed in
               the 1960s represented about 25 to 35 percent of the plant’s decommis-
               sioning and estimate that the total decommissioning costs will be about
               $20 million. According to these officials, Shippingport is more relevant
               to Pathfinder than other plants because the size and radioactivity levels
               are very comparable. They said that they will use the lessons learned
               from Shippingport to decontaminate and remove Pathfinder’s pressure
               vessel. Northern States officials said that very little new knowledge was
               gained from Shippingport, but the knowledge gained through topical
               reports, seminars, feedback from contractors that participated in the
               project, and other information they requested confirmed that the
               method they selected to decommission Pathfinder is valid. They also
               stated that the nuclear industry, in general, could not use this same
               method to decommission other plants.

               ‘Boiling water reactors are cooled by water that is allowed to boil as it passes through the nuclear
               fuel. The water is used directly to produce the steam that generates electricity.

               Page 22                                          GAO/lKXD-00-208      Shippingport   Decommissioning
                      Cue !%ndlm on Four Ndear   Power Planta

                      Fort St. Vrain, a 330-megawatt high-temperature gas-cooled reactor, is
Fort St. Vrain        owned and operated by the Public Service Company of Colorado. The
                      plant, located about 36 miles north of Denver, began commercial opera-
                      tions in 1979. In August 1989 the utility shut the plant down after years
                      of operating problems. During its life, Fort St. Vrain operated for about
                      21,360 hours, generating about 4.3-billion kilowatt-hours of electricity.
                      At the time the plant was shut down, company officials estimate that
                      the reactor contained about 900,000 curies of radioactive contamination.

                      Fort St. Vrain is different from Shippingport and the other 112 domestic
                      nuclear power plants. For example, the plant used graphite to control
                      the rate of fission inside the reactor pressure vessel whereas Ship-
                      pingport and the other plants generally use water. Also, the fuel used in
                      Fort St. Vrain differed from that used in Shippingport and other plants.

                      In November 1989 the utility began removing the spent fuel and had
                      planned to send it to DOE’s Idaho National Engineering Laboratory. How-
                      ever, the governor of Idaho ordered a halt to the shipments, and the
                      company is now storing the fuel pending consideration of other such
                      options as building a spent fuel facility. Public Service has not selected
                      its final decommissioning option, but the company has requested pro-
                      posals to determine the methods to be used and costs to dismantle the
                      plant. According to the company’s 1989 preliminary decommissioning
                      plan, the costs for safe&ore would be around $81 million because the
                      plant is relatively radiologically clean. Currently, the utility expects to
                      convert Fort St. Vrain to a gas-fired plant.

                      These officials also stated that Shippingport provided useful informa.
                      tion to plan, manage, and dismantle Fort St. Vrain as well as methods to
                      control the spread of contamination during the physical decommis-
                      sioning of the plant. Nevertheless, they also noted several significant
                      differences between Shippingport and their plant. Of foremost impor-
                      tance was the small size of Shippingport and the removal of the reactor
                      pressure vessel in one piece-an option that cannot be used for Fort St.

                      Peach Bottom Unit 1, a 40-megawatt prototype high-temperature gas-
Peach Bottom Unit 1   cooled reactor, is located about 80 miles southwest of Philadelphia. The
                      plant, owned by the Philadelphia Electric Company, operated from June
                      1967 until October 1974. During the 7-year period, the plant operated
                      for about 32,375 hours, generating about 1.4billion kilowatt-hours of

                      Page 28                                   GAO/llCED~208   Shippingport   Decommimioning
              Case Studies on Four Nuclear   Power Plants

              electricity. At the time the plant was shut down, the radioactivity                         in the
              pressure vessel was more than 3 million curies.

              Philadelphia Electric decided to safestore the facility and started to
              decontaminate the site in January 1976. The company completed these
              activities in February 1978, using about 179 person-months of labor, at
              a cost of about $3.5 million. The utility removed all radioactive liquids,
              drained refrigerants and cooling water,’ and sent the spent fuel to DOE’S
              Idaho National Engineering Laboratory. The company left the reactor
              vessel, piping systems, and steam generators in the plant, and officials
              estimate that they will not start to remove these components or other-
              wise decommission the plant for about 20 more years.

              At that time, company officials said they would review the Shippingport
              information to determine whether they could apply it to Peach Bottom.
              These officials also noted that the usefulness of the Shippingport infor-
              mation will most likely decrease over time as new technology is

              Ranch0 Seco, a 913-megawatt pressurized water reactor, located about
Ranch0 Seco   25 miles southeast of Sacramento, California, is owned and operated by
              the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). On June 7, 1989, SMUD
              shut down the plant in response to a voter referendum to close the
              plant. During its lifetime, Ranch0 Seco operated for about 51,595 hours
              and generated about 44-billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. Company
              officials estimate that the amount of radioactivity in the plant at shut
              down exceeded 9 million curies.

              In 1987 SMUD completed a generic cost study for the plant and expects to
              submit a revised decommissioning plan to NRC by July 1991. The 1987
              study showed that immediate dismantlement of both radioactive and
              nonradioactive structures ($210 million) would be less costly than
              mothballing the plant ($265 million). SMUD began to remove the fuel
              from the plant on November 28, 1989, and place it in an on-site storage
              pool. In addition, SMUD tried to sell the plant but was not successful in
              finding a buyer. Company officials told us that they may wait up to 50
              years before dismantling the plant.

              “Liquid or gas circulated through a nuclear reactor to remove or transfer heat. Some coolants are
              water, heavy water, carbon dioxide, liquid sodium, sodium-potassium alloy, and helium.

              Page 24                                         GAO/RCEDO@200       Shippingport   Decommissioning
Case Studies on Four Nuclear   Power Phtr

Nevertheless, they believe that the Shippingport experience will be
helpful to them, particularly the asbestos removal report. According to
SMUD officials, although about 60 percent of the information learned
from Shippingport was either new or useful to them, they also cited
numerous differences between Shippingport and Ranch0 Seco. For
example, decommissioning Ranch0 Seco will generate greater-than-Class
C waste-even if the plant is mothballed for 60 years; Shippingport gen-
erated no such waste, according to DOE officials. Also, low-level waste
disposal costs for Shippingport were about $2.4 million (1986 dollars),
whereas SMUD estimates that such costs for Ranch0 Seco will be about
$24 million (1986 dollars). Furthermore, SMUD cannot remove, ship, and
dispose of the Ranch0 Seco pressure vessel in one piece as DOE did at

SMUD   officials did not believe that Shippingport demonstrated the cost-
effective decommissioning of a large commercial nuclear plant because
Shippingport was smaller, was relatively radiologically clean, and did
not have to comply with NRC’Srequirements. Also, all waste from Ship-
pingport was sent to a DOE facility, and the disposal costs were so low
that the situation is not comparable to the nuclear industry. SMUD offi-
cials said that today low-level radioactive waste disposal costs for com-
mercial nuclear plants are at least 10 times higher than those incurred
by Shippingport.

Page 26                                     GAO/RCED-W2OgSMppingportDecommisaionlng
Appendix IV

Major Contributors to This Report

                        Judy England-Joseph, Associate Director, Energy Issues
Resources,              Mary Ann Kruslicky, Assistant Director
Community, and          Philip A. Olson, Evaluator-In-Charge
Development Division,
Washington, D.C.

(301884)                Page 28                          GAO/RCEDOO-208   Shippineport   Decommhioning
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