Morning Briefing - April 09, 2019
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April 09, 2019

NRC Officially Rejects Petition to Suspend FirstEnergy Nuclear Licenses

By ExchangeMonitor

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Tuesday formally rejected the petition from a Chicago environmental organization to suspend the licenses for three FirstEnergy Corp. nuclear power plants set for closure by October 2021.

In a notice posted in the Federal Register, the agency said it had had not found that FirstEnergy and the subsidiaries that own and operate the facilities have violated federal regulations. “Therefore, there is an insufficient basis on which to take enforcement action, issue civil penalties, or suspend a license.”

The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) sought all three actions in a petition filed in March 2018. The group said FirstEnergy and its nuclear branches should be found in violation of federal requirements to prove they had sufficient funding for decommissioning of the Davis-Besse and Perry power plants in Ohio and the Beaver Valley facility in Pennsylvania. Specifically, FirstEnergy Solutions figures from March 2017 indicated the external trusts for the three plants were $350 million short of the anticipated $2.1 billion cost of decommissioning the three plants.

As such, FirstEnergy and its nuclear-operation subsidiaries should receive an NRC notice of violation and fines for operating the sites without sufficient decommissioning funds and the operations licenses for the three plants should be suspended. The ELPC also called on the agency to demand information from the companies, including site-specific funding plans for each facility.

The notice issued Tuesday formalized a proposed director’s decision from January. In each, the NRC determined that the FirstEnergy companies remain in compliance with federal rules. Agency staff is reviewing updated decommissioning funding status reports filed on March 15 for the power plants.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center filed its petition last year one day before FirstEnergy announced the phased closure of the four reactors at the three sites and four days before FirstEnergy Solutions declared bankruptcy.

Last week, a federal bankruptcy judge rejected FirstEnergy Solutions’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization plan, finding the approach might enable the company to skirt paying for decommissioning of nuclear and coal-fired power plants, according to Cleveland.com.