SMUD Ups Nuke Decommissioning Spending

By Published On: September 2, 2005

While the Sacramento Municipal Utility District reviews its contracts for ongoing decommissioning of the Rancho Seco nuclear plant, deal terms are extended and costs increased. The utility’s board approved $16.8 million in new contract costs September 1. “All are within our estimates,” said Steve Redeker, SMUD decommissioning plant manager. He said the tab to decommission the facility is up to $524 million and the utility has spent about two-thirds of that amount. As the utility gains experience with trying to safely bury the shuttered nukes’ radioactive remains, it has brought more of the decommissioning work in-house. “Originally we thought we would do it on a turnkey basis,” Redeker said. A turnkey arrangement involves outsourcing an entire project. However, SMUD found it more effective to do it itself, he added. SMUD now hires contractors on an as-needed basis. These agreements are being evaluated and extended as needed. For instance, Bigge Power Constructors won an increase of $4.5 million in its total $16 million contract to move the plant’s steam generators. El Camino Nuclear extended its consulting services for several years to help with the federal license termination plan for $4.9 million. Envirocare of Utah, the company that manages the low-level-waste storage facility where Rancho Seco’s radioactive parts are headed, got an increase of $6.95 million. And the company that handles radioactive laundry for SMUD, Unitech Services, was allotted $450,000. Redeker said the dismantling is going well so far. “The next thing is the vessel itself.” He didn’t expect that SMUD would have as much trouble disposing of the reactor vessel as has Southern California Edison with its San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station unit 1 reactor. Edison’s vessel disposal has been delayed indefinitely because it was unable to obtain ocean passage to deliver the unit to the radioactive waste dump in Barnwell, South Carolina. Rancho Seco was shut down by a referendum in 1989.

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