EnergySolutions acquires defunct Ill. nuclear power plant

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The price of EnergySolutions stock jumped higher on Wall Street Monday, as the Utah company finalized a $1 billion deal. It's taking over a nuclear power plant in order to tear it down.

It's a bit of an irony on the shores of Lake Michigan: A Utah company will become the owner of a defunct plant in Illinois called the Zion Power Station.

We're taking that entire project to what is called ‘greenfield status,' meaning that it's all decommissioned and decontaminated for other commercial use.

–Val Christensen, EnergySolutions president

"We're essentially buying, for $1, the nuclear power plant," said Val Christensen, president and CEO of EnergySolutions.

Christensen says his company will also get control of a $900 million fund set aside to guarantee safe demolition and cleanup of the plant.

"We're taking that entire project to what is called ‘greenfield status,' meaning that it is all decommissioned and decontaminated for other commercial use," Christensen explained.

EnergySolutions is best known in Utah for putting its name on the EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, but it's the company's radioactive waste landfill in Tooele County that put this deal over.

"About 30 percent of the cost of any decommissioning is disposal," Christensen said, "and because we have our own disposal facility, we're able to mitigate the risk of cost overruns of disposal."

The landfill in Utah will receive only low-level radioactive waste, similar to what it's disposed of for two decades.

"Concrete, soil, debris, clothing, furniture, tools; the kind of things that are extremely low in radioactivity," Christensen said.

But no one knows the ultimate fate of the most dangerous stuff in the Illinois plant: the spent fuel rods. EnergySolutions will place the rods in dry casks on site, waiting for a national decision about what to do with waste that will kill you if you stand too close.

The $1 billion cleanup project in Illinois is expected to take 10 years.


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John Hollenhorst


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