Morning Briefing - January 10, 2019
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January 10, 2019

NRC Set to Reject Petition to Penalize FirstEnergy Over Decommissioning Funds

By ExchangeMonitor

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission this week preliminarily rejected an environmental group’s petition that power company FirstEnergy Corp. be penalized for failing to ensure it had sufficient funding to decommission three nuclear power plants scheduled to close by 2021.

The latest available information does not demonstrate that FirstEnergy and several subsidiaries are breaching NRC regulations, Ho Nieh, director of the agency’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, wrote in a Jan. 8 proposed decision. “Therefore, there is an insufficient basis on which to take enforcement action, issue civil penalties, or suspend a license,” he stated.

The order, which was posted to the NRC website on Wednesday, will become final unless the five-person commission initiates a review within 25 days of the final decision.

FirstEnergy Solutions, a branch of the Akron, Ohio, power provider, on March 28, 2018, announced plans to retire four reactors at three nuclear plants: the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, Ohio, by May 31, 2020; the Perry Nuclear Power Plant in Perry, Ohio, by May 31, 2021; and the two reactors of the Beaver Valley Power Station in Shippingport, Pa., respectively by May 31, 2021, and Oct. 31, 2021.

FirstEnergy Solutions and its affiliates then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on March 31 of last year.

One day ahead of the plant closures announcement, the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center filed a petition with the NRC asserting that FirstEnergy Solutions was in breach of federal requirements to ensure it had sufficient funds in the trusts that would pay for decommissioning of the three plants. It said FirstEnergy numbers from 2017 showed the company’s external trusts as of March 2017 were $350 million under the projected $2.1 billion price tag to decommission the three properties.

The petition asked for a series of measures by the NRC, including fining FirstEnergy and its subsidiaries for operating nuclear plants without adequate decommissioning funds and suspending the licenses for all three facilities.