Data Availability, Information Quality, Accountability...

Decommissioning Fund information

[Submitted by a member of the public through Regulations.gov]

 

The NRC should publish information on the current status of all decommissioning funds for operating nuclear power plants. This data set should be kept up-to-date as new information becomes available. Having such information readily accessible is necessary in light of recent revelations that many nuclear power plants across the country do not have sufficient decommissioning funds. A 2009 Biennial Decommissioning Funding Assurance Analysis indicates that at least 26 nuclear reactors had projected trust fund shortfalls.l" This has led to major concerns about how nuclear reactor sites will be properly and timely decommissioned once plant operations cease. ,For example, at Indian Point, acknowledging that the decommissioning fund for Unit 2 was projected to be almost $40 million short, the NRC approved a plan by owner/operator Entergy to delay decommissioning of the reactor for 50 years (to 2063) in order to allow time for the trust fund to accumulate the necessary funds. 12 The merits of allowing nuclear reactor sites to sit in "safe storage" for decades while trust funds increase to legally mandated amounts is highly questionable. Having current information readily available the public will assist in keeping the NRC answerable to the many concerns that arise from the existence of decommissioning fund shortfalls, including excessive delay of proper site remediation.

 

Moreover, having decommissioning fund information available will allow the public to more easily evaluate whether required trust fund amounts are going to be adequate to cover all actual decommission costs. Indeed, the NRC uses a highly conservative formula to determine the minimum amount of funds required to be in decommissioning accounts. This formula fails to accurately account for all aspects of decommissioning needed to return sites to Greenfield status,such as extensive groundwater contamination plumes like those at Indian Point.13 In fact, plant decommissioning costs estimates have actually demonstrated that projected costs have been far in excess of what NRC would require. 14 Accordingly, having decommissioning fund information accessible to the public will hold the NRC accountable to respond to concerns about insufficient trust fund balances, as measured against NRC's own minimum requirements.

 

Decommissioning fund information is also "high-value" information as contemplated by OMB, since it will: "improve public knowledge of the agency and it& operations" 15 by allowing thepublic to understand how NRC is handling the decommissioning process and problems therewith; "further the core mission of the agency" 16 by permitting the public to more effectively evaluate NRC's efforts toward ensuring proper protection of people and the environment at the time of decommissioning' 7; and "respond to need and demand as identified through public consultation,"18 since it would respond to public concerns about the ability of nuclear lower plant owners to sufficiently complete decommissioning activities in a timely manner.

 

Thus, the NRC should compile and maintain decommissioning fund information for every operating nuclear power plant for public scrutiny. This data set should include current decommissioning trust fund amounts, any information about actual decommissioning costs estimates, details about any current shortfalls along with the number of years it would take the licensee to accumulate the funds at a reasonable rate of return, and proposed or approved plans to deal with any identified shortfalls. This data set should also list all nuclear plants that have been decommissioned thus far, with the original estimate of decommissioning costs, and the final, actual cost listed side by side. Having this information available will undoubtedly foster public participation and inquiry about important environmental concerns associated with decommissioning.

 

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11"2009 Biennial Decommissioning Funding Assurance Analysis, ADAMS Accession No. ML091940387.

 

12 See Letter from John P. Boska (Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulations, NRC) to Vice President, Operations, Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc., Re: Indian Point Nuclear Generating Unit No. 2 - Decommissioning Funding Status Report (TAC NO. ME0528), December 28, 2009, ADAMS Accession No. ML093450778, at 1.

 

13 For an explanation of flaws in NRC decommissioning cost methodology, see generally, Comments Submitted by

the State of New York Concerning the NRC's Proposed Rulemaking.to Amend 10 C.F.R. Parts 20, 30, 40, 50, 70

and 72 to Require Certain Changes in Decommissioning Planning, NRC Docket No. RAN 31 5-AH45 (May 8, 2008),

ADAMS Accession No. ML081340325.

 

14 See, e.g., Preliminary Decommissioning Cost Analysis for the Indian Point Energy Center, Unit 2 (October 2008),

ADAMS Accession No. ML092260723 (estimating decommissioning costs for IP2 to be almost a billion dollars,

over double what NRC's regulations would require).

 

15 NRC Implementation of Open Government Directive, 75 Fed. Reg. at 1419.

 

17 NRC's website banner touts "Protecting People and the Environment." See http://www.nrc.gov/.

18 NRC Implementation of Open Government Directive, 75 Fed. Reg. at 1419.

19 See, e.g. supra Note 13.

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