NRC has failed to ensure that plant owners have adequate funds to safely own, operate and decommission their facilities, according to a new congressional review. In the light of rising decommissioning costs, the NRC needs to tighten its review process for licence transfer requests, said the report by the General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress. The cost of decommissioning ranges from $300 million to $400 million for each plant.
NRC has licensed 125 nuclear plants for a limited time. Utilities have sold or are selling all or part of 15 plants. Another 30 have had licences transferred.
Before transferring a licence to a new owner, the NRC requires companies to have funds available, either by making periodic deposits into a trust fund, prepayment, obtaining a surety bond, insurance or credit guaranteeing payment if a parent company can meet certain financial requirements. In general, enough money is being set aside to take a plant out of service, the report said. But it added that the commission should do more to monitor the financial condition of new owners, and that it should document its review of any financial information, including revenue projections.
The report said that the commission allows plant owners to wait too long - around two years - before licences are terminated to perform radiological assessments to determine what additional cleanup may be required.