This is a pretty good set of demands, though it leaves out the essential issue of what Holtec will do if/when the decom funds run out of money. Pointed questions on that are essential. The potential for the limited liability corp. (LLC) that actually owns Indian Point to declare bankruptcy and leave the decommissioning incomplete is real. And no one believes it’s likely that, under current law and legal precedent, a parent corporation could really be held liable for a LLC’s liabilities in a case like this.

Also, unfortunately, the senators and Rep. Lowey don’t seem to know how decommissioning funds were actually created. See the statement below from the press release.

“The decommissioning trust fund is like a retirement account for a nuclear power plant that is funded by ratepayers. Every electron that the plant produces and sells over its lifetime has a small fee associated with it that is paid by ratepayers and deposited into a bank account where it accrues interest. …”

In point of fact, ratepayers did pay into the decommissioning funds for Indian Point, and all of the money in the trust funds came from the investments paid for by ratepayers. But those charges stopped over 18 years ago, when ConEd and the NY Power Authority (NYPA) sold the Indian Point reactors to Entergy, and it stopped being owned by a regulated utility company.

Since 2001, Indian Point has operated as a merchant power plant, largely selling electricity on the wholesale market. Entergy has no ability to charge ratepayers extra for decommissioning, and it has not added a single dime of its own money to the decom fund since then. In fact, until three years ago, the decom fund for Indian Point 3 and the upstate FitzPatrick reactor was still owned by the NYPA (a state-owned utility), which had held onto it to protect the integrity of NY ratepayers’ investment, with a NRC-approved agreement to fund Entergy’s eventual decommissioning work. But NYPA finally handed it over to Entergy in 2016 as part of the deal to bail out the four upstate reactors, which required Entergy to sell FitzPatrick to Exelon.

The transfer of the NYPA decommissioning fund is now the largest privatization of public property in NY history. The sale of IP3 and FitzPatrick in 2000 was the largest privatization of state-owned assets in NY at the time, but Entergy at least paid ~$900 million for the reactors, and the sale didn’t include transferring ownership of the decom fund. The NYPA decom fund was worth ~$1.5 billion in 2016 — even greater than the market value of the reactors at the time they were sold — and it was given away for free, essentially so that Exelon would agree to buy FitzPatrick and Entergy could cut this deal to sell Indian Point to Holtec. Holtec’s business scheme would have faced serious obstacles if NYPA was the one having to authorized checks to be cut out of the decom fund.

Tim Judson
Executive Director
Nuclear Information and Resource Service
6930 Carroll Ave., Suite 340
Takoma Park, MD 20912
O: 301-270-6477