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By law, nuclear utilities are suppossed to establish trust funds to pay for the immense costs of decommissioning a nuclear facility once the power plant has been permanently shut down. In August, 2009, the NRC cited 26 of the nation's 104 nuclear power plants for falling short on their decommissioning funds and required them to come up with a plan. The number of plants falling short is unprecedented. It has been estimated that the average shortfall was somewhere between $47 million and $151 million.

What is decommissioning?

Decommissioning is the process by which a nuclear plant closes down and the site is cleaned up. This can be a lengthy and expensive project, but it’s necessary to remove all the radioactive contamination nuclear plants cause so the site and surrounding areas become safe for other uses.

Who pays for decommissioning?

The idea is for the utilities that own and operate nuclear plants to pay for decommissioning when their plant closes. But since decommissioning can’t happen until a plant shuts down for good (and stops earning money for the utility), if the utility mismanaged its assets, declares bankruptcy, or simply doesn’t have the millions of dollars necessary to pay for cleanup, the only option is for the government to come in and use taxpayer money to pay for the utility’s negligence.

Whose funds are short?

List of U.S. nuclear plants that federal reguators say are not saving enough money to pay for the eventual dismantling of reactors and removal of radioactive materials once the plants stop operating:

  • Duane Arnold Energy Center, Iowa
  • Beaver Valley Power Station, Unit 1, Pennsylvania
  • Braidwood station, Unit 1, Illinois
  • Braidwood Station, Unit 2, Illinois
  • Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Station, Unit 1, Alabama
  • Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Station, Unit 2, Alabama
  • Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Station, Unit 3, Alabama
  • Byron Station, Unit 1, Illinois
  • Byron Station, Unit 2, Illinois
  • Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, Unit 1, Maryland
  • Clinton Power Station, Illinois
  • Robert E. Ginna Nuclear Power Station, New York state
  • Indian Point, Unit 2, New York state
  • LaSalle County Station, Unit 1, Illinois
  • LaSalle County Station, Unit 2, Illinois
  • Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station, Unit 1, New York state
  • Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station, Unit 2, New York state
  • Palisades Nuclear plant, Michigan
  • Point Beach Nuclear Plant, Unit 1, Wisconsin
  • Point Beach Nuclear Plant, Unit 2, Wisconsin
  • River Bend Station, Louisiana
  • Sequoyah Nuclear Plant, Unit 1, Tennessee
  • Sequoyah Nuclear Plant, Unit 2, Tennessee
  • Vermont Yankee Power Station, Vermont
  • Waterford Generating Station, Unit 3, Louisiana
  • Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, Unit 1, Tennessee

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