Market Analysis of a Looming Crisis –Decommissioning Trends and a Shrinking Crew
Jas S. Devgun, Ph.D., Manager, Nuclear Power Technologies, Sargent & Lundy LLC
Recent events and trends point to a scenario of more and more reactors being retired due to economic viability reasons, post- Fukushima requirements, and a stalling of the general "nuclear renaissance". Such a trend is already happening in the United States and will likely also occur in other countries where older reactors are coming to an end of their original operating license periods or where regulators have imposed additional requirements. In terms of projections for the US, we have performed an analysis based on a plausible scenario that shows that as many as 25 reactors may enter decommissioning in the next twenty years, in addition to the reactors already in decommissioning. A significant change that is happening is that the power plants can no longer apply the SAFSTOR option and a "wait & see" strategy. The main driver for this change is state intervention along with other factors including the status of the decommissioning funds, long-term liability issues, and a strong public interest in early dismantlement and cleanup.
A less noticed but equally important trend in the nuclear industry has been that experienced decommissioning managers and engineers have been retiring in large numbers. With no overlapping programs to transfer knowledge and experience to a younger generation, the issue is a looming crisis that has the potential to severely impact the decommissioning of future reactors as well as the future of nuclear power development in general.
This paper evaluates data from the commercial power industry as well as reports from the national and international organizations. First, it provides a market analysis of the nuclear power, reactor decommissioning status, decommissioning trends, factors influencing the trends, and projections for the future. Second, it analyzes a critical issue for the industry related to the shrinking workforce of decommissioning managers, engineers and other professionals and the challenge it poses to the decommissioning industry and the nuclear industry in general. Finally, the paper reviews initiatives already taken in this regard and provides recommendations as what more can be done.
WMS Journal Volume 1, Issue 4