ARKANSAS, Nov 15 (Future Headlines)- Nearly 60 years after its last operation, the reactor vessel of the Vallecitos Boiling Water Reactor (VBWR), a prototype boiling water reactor in California, has been successfully removed from its containment and transported for final disposal by NorthStar Group Services, Inc. The VBWR, which operated from 1957 to 1963, holds historical significance as the first privately owned and operated nuclear power plant to deliver significant electricity to a public grid. It was also the inaugural nuclear power plant licensed by the US Atomic Energy Commission, bearing the license number NPR-1.
Following its closure, the VBWR underwent deactivation, defuelling, and was placed in SAFESTOR status, a long-term storage condition outlined by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission for permanently shut-down nuclear power plants. SAFESTOR allows for a substantial decrease in radioactive contamination over time, facilitating easier decontamination and demolition while reducing the amount of low-level radioactive waste requiring disposal.
After over a year of meticulous planning, the VBWR’s reactor vessel, measuring 9 feet in diameter, 22 feet tall, and weighing over 100,000 pounds, was prepared for shipment and removed by NorthStar. The vessel was transported by road and rail to the licensed disposal facility of NorthStar affiliate Waste Control Specialists, LLC in Texas, where it arrived in early November.
The Vallecitos Nuclear Center (VNC) in Sunol, California, housed the VBWR, and the site, owned by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), was also home to the General Electric Test Reactor and the ESADA Vallecitos Experimental Superheat Reactor. It served as a hub for research work for the US Atomic Energy Commission’s nuclear energy program and the civilian nuclear power industry from 1965 to 1975. Decommissioning efforts are currently underway for the other reactors at the VNC.
In May, NorthStar and GEH unveiled plans to eventually transfer ownership of the entire VNC to NorthStar for the completion of decommissioning and site restoration. Regulatory approvals are being sought for the transfer of the site and associated license to NorthStar. NorthStar is actively engaged in decommissioning and site restoration at the former Vermont Yankee nuclear power station site, which it acquired from Entergy in 2019. Additionally, through its joint venture Accelerated Decommissioning Partners with Orano USA, NorthStar is expeditiously decommissioning Duke Energy’s Crystal River 3 nuclear power plant in Florida.
Editing by Sarah White