Public Citizen News Release


For Immediate Release: Jan. 26, 1999

Contact: 

 Jim Riccio, (202) 546-4996
 Auke Piersma, (202) 546-4996

STUDY SHOWS ELECTRICITY DEREGULATION COULD CAUSE UNFUNDED NUCLEAR WASTE LIABILITIES THAT MAY EXCEED $50 BILLION

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A new study released today, Stranded Nuclear Waste, documents alarming funding shortfalls for decommissioning and nuclear waste storage. Authored by Synapse Energy Economics, the study indicates that electric utility deregulation will force early closure of many nuclear plants, facing policy-makers with difficult and controversial choices regarding future funding of nuclear plant decommissioning and waste storage costs totaling as much as $54 billion nationally. Of the 103 nuclear plants, as many as 90 could be forced to close before their scheduled retirement dates as a result of the competitive pressures expected from deregulation.
"It has been evident for decades that nuclear power is expensive and dangerous," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project. "As the nuclear era dies out, the costs of nuclear power continually rise, and as a result ratepayers are forced to pay for the bailout of nuclear utilities."
Because funding under current law assumes plants will run until their licenses expire, these economically driven plant closures would create an unfunded liability for nuclear plant decommissioning, potentially rising to $15.3 billion. "Since nuclear utilities are being unjustly enriched with a nuclear bailout, they should pay for the decommissioning of reactors," said Jim Riccio, a staff attorney with Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project.
Early plant retirements will also create an unfunded liability for long-term storage of high level nuclear waste. This could total as much as $46.5 billion if economics force early closure of these plants, and a recent independent estimate of the total cost of the planned Yucca Mountain waste storage facility proves accurate. To make matters worse, H.R. 45, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1999, exacerbates the problem by reducing the fees paid by the industry for nuclear waste storage. "It is outrageous that the nuclear industry is not paying the full costs of nuclear waste storage, but for Members of Congress to support a reduction of the fees is unthinkable," said Auke Piersma, a energy policy analyst with Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project.
"Public Citizen will oppose any attempts to burden ratepayers or taxpayers with additional decommissioning or nuclear waste storage costs," Hauter said. "The utilities' past mistakes and bad management require that utility profits be used to balance the books."