NRC looks at nuke plant shutdown fund shortfalls




BETHESDA, Md. — Federal regulators said Thursday they hope to resolve funding shortfalls with the owners of 26 nuclear plants, who aren't saving enough money to dismantle them when they've run their course.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials are reviewing action plans owners were asked to submit, explaining how they'd address funding shortfalls for shutting down reactors. NRC officials in June notified owners of the shortfalls, caused in part by the nation's financial meltdown.




"All of this is still under review," said Michael A. Dusaniwskyj, an NRC economist.

The AP reported in June that over two years, estimates of dismantling costs for the U.S. nuclear industry increased by more than $4.6 billion due to rising energy and labor costs, while funds set aside for shutdowns have lost $4.4 billion in the stock market.

Dusaniwskyj said while there have been shortfalls in the past, they were usually only at a few plants and were significantly smaller.

"We've never really seen this kind of a shortfall," he said.

He said a rough estimate of the average shortfall at each of the 26 plants was somewhere between $47 million and $151 million.

Industry critics say reactor owners were not saving enough money even before the financial meltdown, and that federal regulators need to hold the industry to a higher standard to help insure the public's safety.

Plant owners say there are many ways to address the shortfall, including idling the plants or having the government extend licenses to operate them.

Industry officials say that most, if not all, owners of reactors will seek license renewals to extend operations by up to 20 years. Industry officials say the additional time will help them recoup their fund losses.

Plant operators are required to set aside funds during a reactor's operating life to insure the site will be properly cleaned up once the reactor is permanently shut down.

The NRC requires operators of the nation's 104 nuclear power reactors to submit reports every two years about how much money they are saving to dismantle their reactors. The latest reports were filed earlier this year.

(This version CORRECTS SUBS lead to correct grammatical error.)

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