Power plants are built to last, but they still have a very finite lifespan. When the time to replace the plant finally arrives, the owners need to begin the process of decommissioning. It’s expensive and it takes a long time, but it also prevents the old plant from causing problems after it is abandoned. New developments in green energy mean that more and more plants are getting decommissioned, so it’s important to understand the process.
It Can Be Big Business
Decommissioning an old power plant takes a huge amount of skilled labor. That means that it’s an expensive process, but it also means that the right cleanup business can make a small fortune working on it. This is a recent change, since the environmental regulations that call for safe and clean decommissioning are only a couple of decades old, but the business is growing fast due to the increasing frequency of decommissioning for old power plants.
Different Rules For Different Plants
The regulations that surround decommissioning are complicated, and they differ from one type of power plant to the next.Nuclear power plants get most of the media attention, so they have some of the most elaborate rules and they often get more government support, but they aren’t the only type. It’s actually more common for coal plants to get decommissioned as they get replaced with greener energy sources, so the processes and regulations for doing so are developing very quickly.
It’s Full Of Surprises
Old buildings change over time, and people don’t always document those changes. They’re often small things, like rooms getting abandoned due to damage or small renovations, but they matter for the decommissioning process. Unfortunately, the decommissioning workers don’t always get advanced warning about the changes. They usually need to depend on the plant’s workers remembering the changes, which usually isn’t enough to provide warnings about all of them. Workers need to be able to deal with unexpected pollutants and devices, and that can make their job very challenging.
There’s Plenty Of Recycling
Most energy companies run multiple plants, so they can salvage a lot of the equipment from a decommissioned facility. The components that are too damaged or obsolete to reuse in another plant get sold as scrap to help cover the costs of the decommissioning process, which means they also get to be recycled into new products. There’s still some waste, but decommissioning doesn’t simply leave an abandoned junkyard behind.
People Plan For It
Nobody expects a plant to operate forever. Many operators plan for the decommissioning process far in advance, and they have funds set aside to cover the costs. In the case of nuclear plants, this is required by the United States government. Those funds are placed completely outside the company’s control, so they can’t even be seized in the case of bankruptcy.