AP article doesn't tell the whole story

Posted: Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Associated Press article published in your newspaper ("Funds to shut nuclear energy fall short," June 17) was a sensationalized depiction of the current status of decommissioning funds for U.S. nuclear energy facilities.

The tack that AP could have taken is this: Despite the nation's worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, 70 percent of the nation's nuclear reactors continue to meet regulatory requirements for decommissioning funding at power plants that, by and large, will continue to operate and accrue decommissioning funds into the 2030s and beyond.

Not that AP cared to tell you, but every power reactor that has been or is being decommissioned has been able to fund and safely perform decommissioning activities.

Instead, two AP reporters penned a sensationalized account focusing on the less-than-shocking news that market-based decommissioning funds haven't been immune to the financial crisis and that, for the minority of funds that are not now at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's desired level, companies will be asked "how they plan to resolve the problem."

Most nuclear power plants will operate to 2030 and beyond, so there will be an extended time horizon to assure sufficient decommissioning funding.

Fifty-four of the nation's 104 operating reactors have received license extensions. License renewal applications for another 18 reactors are pending, and we believe most, if not all, commercial reactors will follow suit.

AP made much of the fact that 19 closed plants, with the NRC's approval, are in a safe storage status that may extend up to 60 years before a plant is actually dismantled.

This approach is appropriate for financial reasons (i.e., allowing further maturation of decommissioning funds) and safety reasons. Without attribution, AP mischaracterized this as the "most severe" of risks. In reality, it is among the most sensible approaches, backed by federal regulators.

Scott Peterson

Vice president

Nuclear Energy Institute

Washington, D.C.

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