10 U.S. nuclear power plants have announced plans to begin decommissioning between 2019 and 2050


Washington (August 7, 2018) – In a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) expressed concern over the draft proposed rule on decommissioning nuclear power plants that has been presented to the Commissioners for their review. The rule contains proposed changes to emergency preparedness, physical security, cyber security, funding assurance, financial protection requirements, and environmental considerations, among other issues. In their letter, the Senators note that the proposed rule would make it easier for nuclear power plants to obtain exemptions for safety, security and financial protections. They also highlight that the proposed rule would limit the opportunity for the general public to participate and express concerns about the decommissioning process. The proposed rule also fails to adequately address concerns over the long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel, as well as reduces the financial protections, especially in case of an accident, which could leave taxpayers and communities on the hook for millions of dollars.


“By failing to propose a comprehensive set of decommissioning and cleanup regulations, by automatically approving facilities’ exemptions from safety, security and emergency planning regulations, and by continuing to rubber-stamp the industry’s post-shutdown decommissioning activities report, as currently drafted, this proposed regulation would abdicate the NRC’s responsibility to ensure the safety of these plants,” write the Senators in their letter to NRC Chairman Kristine L. Svinicki. “This is more an absence of rulemaking than a rule that will affirmatively guide plants and communities through the decommissioning process.”


A copy of the letter can be found HERE.


The draft proposed rule, sent to the Commissioners in May, is supposed to provide a roadmap for retiring nuclear plants. Ten nuclear power plants have announced their plans to begin decommissioning between 2019 and 2050, including the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Massachusetts (2019), Indian Point Energy Center in New York (2020), and Diablo Canyon in California (Unit 1 in 2024). Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant is currently undergoing decommissioning.


Earlier this year, Senators Markey, Harris, Sanders, and Gillibrand introduced legislation to improve the safety and security of decommissioning reactors and the storage of spent nuclear fuel at nuclear plants across the nation.