Nuclear Regulation: NRC Needs More Effective Analysis to Ensure Accumulation of Funds to Decommission Nuclear Power Plants

GAO-04-32 Published: Oct 30, 2003. Publicly Released: Dec 01, 2003.
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Following the shutdown of a nuclear power plant a significant radioactive waste hazard remains until the waste is removed and the plant site decommissioned. In 1999, GAO reported that the combined value of the owners' decommissioning funds was insufficient to ensure enough funds would be available for decommissioning. GAO was asked to update its 1999 report and to evaluate the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) analysis of the owners' funds and its process for acting on reports that show insufficient funds.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Nuclear Regulatory Commission To ensure that owners are accumulating sufficient funds to decommission their nuclear power plants, the Chairman, NRC, should develop an effective method for determining whether owners are accumulating funds at sufficient rates to pay for decommissioning. For plants having more than one owner, this method should include separately evaluating whether each owner is accumulating funds at sufficient rates to pay for its share of decommissioning.
Closed - Implemented
In April 2006, NRC revised its "Procedures for NRC's Independent Analysis of Decommissioning Funding Assurance for Operating Nuclear Power Reactors" (LIC-205). In November 2007, NRC issued "Reactor Decommissioning Trust Fund Oversight by Other Agencies and Recommendations Regarding Further Commission Action" (SECY-07-0197). Among other things, these new procedures require verifying the accuracy of owners' Biennial Decommissioning Fund Status Reports by reviewing original documents indicating the actual dollar amount in the Decommissioning Trust.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission The Chairman, NRC, should establish criteria for taking action when NRC determines that an owner or co-owner is not accumulating decommissioning funds at a sufficient rate to pay for its share of the cost of decommissioning.
Closed - Not Implemented
In a February 10, 2004, letter to congressional committees and GAO, the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) stated that the NRC currently has a procedural framework for dealing with an owner who does not appear to be on track to accumulate sufficient funds for decommissioning. In addition, the Chairman's letter stated that the NRC does not believe that it is necessary to establish specific criteria along the lines suggested by GAO for responding to unacceptable levels of decommissioning funding assurance, considering the complexity and range of circumstances that may arise with any given owner.

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