Westinghouse and Bechtel Team to Pursue Nuclear Decommissioning Work

Two giants in the power industry—Westinghouse Electric Co. and Bechtel Corp.—have formed an alliance to provide decontamination, decommissioning, and remediation services to U.S. commercial nuclear power plants.

The alliance is expected to provide a full range of services, including pre-shutdown planning, characterization, decontamination, licensing, project development and management, dismantling, demolition, waste handling, and site closeout. The partnership offers customers a single contracting group to manage and deliver their decommissioning projects. The potential market for decommissioning services is large, so it’s no surprise that Westinghouse and Bechtel would want to get in on some of the action.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average age of U.S. commercial reactors is about 33 years. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licenses U.S. reactors to operate for 40 years. Prior to termination of the original license, companies may apply to the NRC for 20-year license extensions.

NRC records show that 73 reactors have completed the license extension process, although two of those reactors—Kewaunee and Vermont Yankee—have since been permanently shutdown. Nineteen more reactors have applied for license extensions, but have not yet received final approval.

The oldest operating U.S. reactors are Oyster Creek in New Jersey, and Nine Mile Point 1 in New York—both entered commercial service on Dec. 1, 1969—but rumors abound that several newer units could be closed for economic reasons, including Fitzpatrick, Pilgrim, Indian Point, Ginna, Quad Cities, Byron, and Clinton.

Bechtel and Westinghouse have each been active in the nuclear industry for more than 50 years. Bechtel says it has performed services on 88% of the U.S. nuclear power fleet. The company claims to have more than three decades of experience in cleanup, decommissioning, remediation, and closure at more than 500 contaminated sites across the world, including nuclear waste facilities in Washington state, New Mexico, Idaho, Tennessee, and South Carolina. Bechtel also performed extensive decontamination and decommissioning work after the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania.

“Customers can trust that Bechtel and Westinghouse will provide integrated services and solutions to safely decommission, decontaminate, and dismantle a power plant, and prepare the site for other uses,” said Michael Graham, general manager of Bechtel’s global environmental business, in a press release announcing the partnership.

Westinghouse supplied the world’s first pressurized water reactor in 1957 in Shippingport, Pa., and its technology is the basis for nearly half of the world’s operating commercial nuclear power plants. The company provides fuel, services, technology, plant design, and equipment for the commercial nuclear power industry.

“Westinghouse is pleased to join with Bechtel to bring about the most fully integrated range of decontamination, decommissioning and remediation services available to the U.S. nuclear energy market,” said Mark Marano, Westinghouse president, Americas, in a company statement. “The deployment of consolidated, proven technologies and processes from this alliance will meet the needs of U.S. nuclear power plants that are coming off-line, ultimately allowing the opportunity to return the land to useable property.”

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)