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#629 - June 10, 2005

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Full issue

25 Years ago

What happened 25 years ago? We go back to news from our 1980 WISE Bulletin, comparing anti-nuclear news then and now.

In Vol. 2, Nr. 3 of the WISE Bulletin, we wrote about the clean up of the Illinois reactor, Dresden 1, then already America's oldest nuclear reactor: "The $8.2 million experiment involves the flushing of 85,000 gallons of chemical solvents through the reactor and its 5 mile piping system, to remove build up 'crud'. Crud is the term used to describe metal oxides that built up in the pipes and on the reactor fuel. The deposits create high radiation fields, which are dangerous to workers. The reactor must either be cleaned or closed permanently" (WISE Bulletin, March/April 1980)



The Dresden 1 reactor has been closed down since October 31, 1978 but unfortunately that did not mean the end of its numerous problems. In April 1994, the Nuclear Regulatory Committee (NRC) wrote to all license holders of permanently closed nuclear power reactors about problems found at the Dresden 1 reactor. On January 25 1994, the plant operators discovered a leakage of 55,000 gallons of water, from the pipe system of the spent fuel tank, in the basement of the unit 1 containment. Following an inspection by a special NRC inspection team, it was determined that the leakage had been caused by freeze damage, which potentially could have caused the spent fuel pool, containing 660 spent fuel assemblies, to drain down causing the release of high levels of radiation. The subsequent NRC report said that personnel neglecting maintenance work, under the false belief that the reactor no longer posed any danger because it was already permanently closed, had caused the problems.

Although the reactor closed in 1978, there are still spent fuel assemblies in the building and actual decontamination work has yet to start. One reason is that there is not enough money set aside for this purpose and many other nuclear reactors face the same problem. Although reactors are meant to last for 40 years, not a single nuclear reactor in the United States has operated for that length of time and it is certain that the money held in the Trusts for decontamination work will prove insufficient because the real costs still remain unknown. ("Dismantling Nuclear Reactors" by Matthew L Wald/ Scientific American, 1 March 2003)

It is estimated that of the 51 companies operating nuclear reactors or owning closed nuclear reactors, only 2 appear to have enough money set aside for decontamination. On the average, just 39% of clean up funds required are secure.
("Stranded Nuclear Waste: Implications of Electric Industry Deregulation for Nuclear Plant Retirements and Funding Decommissioning and Spent Fuel" by Bruce Biewald and David White/Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., 15 January 1999)


ISSN: 1570-4629