Inside A Nuclear Plant's Decommissioning

Sep 11, 2013

Credit Jason R. Henske / AP

Wed 9/11/13 at Noon & 7PM: The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant will go offline permanently in 2014, but there are still a lot of questions about the process of decommissioning the plant. 

We learn what happens inside a nuclear plant when it’s dismantled, how that’s different from a process called SAFSTOR, and who has the decision-making authority for how a plant is decommissioned and how long the process lasts.  Our guest is Bruce Watson, branch bureau chief for decommissioning at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 

Also in the program, a century-old story of a Burlington guitar-maker comes to life for a modern music writer. Fretboard Journal's Joel Eckhaus shares the story of John Henry Parker, and the connections that Eckhaus found between his own life and Parker's.

Boiling Water Reactors:

Operation of a typical boiling water reactor.
Credit U.S. Government, Nuclear Regulatory Commission

The NRC provides this description of how a boiling water reactor, like Vermont Yankee, operates:

"In a typical commercial boiling-water reactor, (1) the core inside the reactor vessel creates heat, (2) a steam-water mixture is produced when very pure water (reactor coolant) moves upward through the core, absorbing heat, (3) the steam-water mixture leaves the top of the core and enters the two stages of moisture separation where water droplets are removed before the steam is allowed to enter the steam line, and (4) the steam line directs the steam to the main turbine, causing it to turn the turbine generator, which produces electricity. The unused steam is exhausted into the condenser where it is condensed into water. The resulting water is pumped out of the condenser with a series of pumps, reheated and pumped back to the reactor vessel. The reactor's core contains fuel assemblies that are cooled by water circulated using electrically powered pumps."