Entergy will have to meet the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) decommissioning funding assurance requirements regardless of whether state regulatory commissions allow collections from ratepayers for nuclear plant decommissioning trusts.

Since last year, Entergy has been struggling with regulators over decommissioning funding projections at three of its five rate-regulated reactors in southern USA. The regulators contend that Entergy will over-collect from ratepayers because funds are accumulating over 60 years of operation rather than the originally planned 40-year lifetime.

By an order of the Arkansas Public Services Commission, Entergy was forced to stop decommissioning surcharges for Arkansas Nuclear One 1 and 2 in January 2001. The Louisiana Public Service Commission (PSC) has also proposed that collections cease for River Bend, although that case remains tied up in legal proceedings. Entergy believes that the Louisiana PSC will next target Waterford 3.

Christopher Grimes, programme director of the policy and rulemaking programme in the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation’s division of regulatory improvement programmes for the NRC, said: “The rule is pretty clear. Licensees have an obligation to fulfil the decommissioning funding assurance requirements.” He made it clear that it was up to utilities how they met these requirements.

NRC’s rules require utilities to demonstrate every two years with reasonable assurance that funds are available to decommission plants. Grimes said that it would be up to the licensees to meet the NRC’s rules.

NRC regulations allow licensees to assume projected earnings on the decommissioning trust fund using up to a 2% annual real rate of return, which Grimes called the minimum that would be needed for radiological protection.