Inside the biggest nuclear power plant tear-down in the U.S.

Inside the biggest nuclear power plant tear-down in the U.S.



1. Cool it

On the San Onofre nuclear energy plant, staff switch 2,668 gasoline assemblies—holding 1,109 metric tons of radioactive uranium-235—to 17-foot-tall stainless-­metal containers. These sit inside a deep, steel-lined cooling pool for a number of years, chilling at temperatures round 68 levels Fahrenheit, till staff can transfer them to storage.

2. Entomb it

After the gasoline cools, staff match the canisters into 20-foot-deep concrete casks embedded within the floor. The concrete helps entice the gasoline’s radiation inside, whereas vents flow into air to maintain it cool. These casks, which might be monitored and guarded across the clock, are sturdy sufficient to resist earthquakes, tsunamis, even the impression of a jet crash.

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three. Rip it

Remotely managed instruments minimize up the extremely contaminated gear (lower than .04 p.c of the particles). Different robotic machines will take away essentially the most tainted waste. Then staff—utilizing hydraulic hammers, saws, and bulldozers—rip aside the buildings. Mundane workplace supplies like shelving, furnishings, and insulation fill out the junk pile.

four. Ship it

Demolition produces greater than 25 million cubic toes of particles—rebar, concrete, and piping—sufficient to fill a decent-size college-­soccer stadium. The San Onofre web site hosts as much as 60 rail automobiles at a time, ready to cart off the low-level radiation particles. Vehicles haul the nontainted stuff—75 p.c of the entire—to landfills in Texas and Arizona.

5. Bury it

Freight automobiles carry the low-level radioactive particles—now packed in drums, baggage, and huge containers—to a nuclear-­waste landfill within the Utah desert. Employees there test and doc radiation ranges, then bury the stuff in “embankments,” from eight toes beneath grade to 38 toes above grade, in sedimentary rock and coated in clay and rock.


This text was initially revealed within the January/February 2018 Power subject of Common Science.





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