COVERT — “How are we going to pay for it?” is the question when it comes to almost anything. 

But it doesn’t have to be with the decommissioning of a nuclear power plant like Palisades.

Before a nuclear power plant begins operations, the owner must establish or obtain a financial mechanism to ensure there is sufficient money to pay for the decommmissioning of the facility, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). 

The money is kept in a trust inaccessible for other uses. Each nuclear power plant licensee must report the status of its decommissioning fund for each reactor it owns to the NRC every two years.

The Palisades decommissioning fund was $411.8 million as of Dec. 31, 2016.

The report must estimate the minimum amount needed for decommissioning by using the formulas found in NRC regulations or may alternatively determine a site-specific funding estimate, if that amount is greater than the generic decommissioning estimate.

Although there are many factors that affect reactor decommissioning costs, generally they range from $300 million-$400 million, according to the NRC.

The estimated amount of funds needed for decommissioning Palisades will be released when Entergy releases it’s Post Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report. This report is required to be released within two years of the plant shutting down, but it could be released sooner. 

The NRC says a nuclear power plant must be decommissioned within 60 years of shutdown. Besides allowing the radioactivity to decay over this time, the 60 years time-frame has the added benefit of allowing the decommissioning fund to generate interest and grow to help cover the full costs of decommissioning.

There is also a spent fuel management fund to pay for safety requirements, daily checks and annual, quarterly and monthly inspections on the dry casks stored on the Palisades site. 

“The NRC will always be conducting inspections for as long as there is fuel and materials on site,” said Rhex Edwards with the NRC. “We will always have an emergency plan, always have some sort of fire protection program, always have some sort of security program.”

And there’s money for that too.

The NRC constantly checks with Entergy to make sure there is enough money in these funds. 

“If there are shortfalls they have to make up for those shortfalls in some way,” Edwards said. “Of course the future is unpredictable. We don’t know what the funding scenario would be. But in case of bankruptcy the courts would be involved.”

Contact: anewman@TheHP.com, 932-0357, Twitter: @HPANewman