The NRC Keeps Watch Over Comanche Peak During Chapter 11 Proceedings

Lara Uselding
Region IV Public Affairs Officer
 

The owner/operator of the Comanche Peak nuclear power plant — Luminant Generation Company LLC – told us that its parent company, Energy Future Holdings (EFH), has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Chapter 11 provides time for a business to sort out its financial problems.

cpThis is not the first time an action like this has involved a nuclear plant. The owner of the Diablo Canyon plant went through a bankruptcy in 2001, and, in the 1980s, the Seabrook plant went through a similar process.

The NRC has been actively monitoring the situation since EFH told the Securities and Exchange Commission last year it may have difficulties meeting debt obligations. NRC staff has looked at any potential impacts on plant safety and security, the decommissioning fund, and the implementation of post-Fukushima action items. We determined the plant continues to be sufficiently funded.

Based on NRC management visits to the Texas plant and monthly calls and meetings with company executives at the NRC Region IV office, the NRC has been assured EFH’s financial issues will not have a negative impact on the safe operation of the plant.

Staff from NRC’s regional office in Arlington, Texas, will continue to conduct inspections and assessments to ensure public health and safety is maintained. They will also evaluate whether the financial conditions are impacting plant staffing, maintenance activities and emergency preparedness capabilities.

Moving forward, the NRC has reminded the company  it must continue to meet requirements of its license. For example, EFH/Luminant must have a financial support agreement of $250 million to ensure operating and maintenance costs for the two reactors can be met for a year. And EFH and Luminant must inform the NRC prior to transferring significant funds — greater than 10 percent of total accounts — away from Luminant.  Once a new corporate entity is established the firm must notify the NRC to begin the license transfer process.

The plant is in compliance with our decommissioning funding assurance requirements, and the NRC will work with the bankruptcy authorities to ensure decommissioning funds are insulated from creditor claims.

Two NRC resident inspectors live in the local community and work at the plant. They are the agency’s eyes and ears at the plant and their daily oversight helps to ensure the plant continues to be operated safely, and protects public health and the environment.

A New Look at Reactor Decommissioning

David McIntyre
Public Affairs Officer
 

 Four nuclear power plants closed in 2013 and another is expected to shut down later this year. That puts decommissioning in the spotlight – so the NRC has produced a new video explaining how it’s done.

map_Decommissioning_8By way of background, the owners of Crystal River 3 in Florida, Kewaunee in Wisconsin, and San Onofre 2 and 3 in California already have taken the first steps toward decommissioning their plants. They’ve certified that they permanently ceased operations and removed the fuel from the reactors into their spent fuel pools. Their licenses no longer allow them to operate the reactors.

The owners of Vermont Yankee will do the same when that plant stops operating as scheduled late this year.

The companies then have up to two years to develop and submit decommissioning plans – called the post-shutdown decommissioning activities report, or PSDAR. The report includes a description and a schedule for decommissioning activities and their estimated cost. The report also includes a discussion of why any anticipated environmental impacts have already been reviewed in previous reports on the plant. Crystal River submitted its report last December.

Plant owners typically combine two decommissioning approaches: DECON, in which the plant is dismantled and the site cleaned up to the NRC’s specifications, and SAFSTOR, maintaining the plant as is for a period of time before final cleanup. Waiting allows the radioactivity at the site to decay, making cleanup easier. (A third approach, entombing the reactor in place, has never been used by NRC licensees.)

Two years before the license is to be terminated, the plant owner submits its License Termination Plan to the NRC. The NRC surveys the site to verify the cleanup has been successful before terminating the license (or amending it if spent fuel is still stored there).

We hope you’ll take a few minutes to view the new video. Even more information about the decommissioning process can be found on the NRC website.