What do we do with old nuclear power plants when they shut down?



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    Caught between approaching retirement deadlines and public opposition to new plants, industry operators are pushing to extend the life of their plants to 60 or even 80 years — and this despite problems of premature aging of major components that have already obliged many to replace their plants’ steam generators at heavy capital expense.

    Nevertheless, when a power company decides to close its nuclear power plant permanently, the facility must be decommissioned by safely removing it from service and reducing residual radioactivity to a level that permits release of the property and termination of the operating license. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has strict rules governing nuclear power plant decommissioning, involving cleanup of radioactively contaminated plant systems and structures and removal of the radioactive fuel. These requirements protect workers and the public during the entire decommissioning process and the public after the license is terminated.

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