The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has released for “unrestricted use” most of the land on and around the area where the Zion Nuclear Power Station once operated. This means that any residual radiation is below NRC’s limits and there will be no further regulatory controls imposed by the NRC for that portion of the property. Only the plant’s used fuel storage facility, covering about five acres, will remain under NRC licence and oversight.

NRC staff determined ZionSolutions had satisfactorily finished decommissioning of the plant and decontamination of the site to meet the agency’s radiation protection standards. This cleared the way for ZionSolutions to transfer the used fuel storage facility licence to Constellation Energy Generation, which will be responsible for the security and protection of the facility until an offsite storage or permanent disposal site becomes available.

NRC said Constellation is free to use the remainder of the former plant site for any application. The Zion plant, located in Zion, Illinois, comprised two pressurised water reactors that operated from 1973 until 1997. Former operator Commonwealth Edison certified the permanent shutdown of the plant in 1998. In 2010, the licences were transferred to ZionSolutions, a subsidiary of radioactive waste disposal company EnergySolutions, for decommissioning. NRC approved the current transfer to Constellation in 2019, conditional on ZionSolutions’ successful completion of decommissioning.

In March, the state of Illinois awarded a grant of potentially more than $300m to the Zion community to help remediate the impact of the closure of the NPP in 1998, and the waste still stored at the site.

Zion was among more than 50 communities in Illinois awarded energy transition community grants of an aggregate $40m annually potentially until 2045 to compensate for plant or mine closures.

Image: Zion nuclear power plant pictured before decommissioning