S. 1797/1798 - State Authority
Federal law limits the extent to which states can regulate nuclear power. It preempts state and local laws that seek to regulate radiological health & safety aspects, except where Congress has granted states authority to perform environmental assessments and set standards under the Clean Air and Clean Water Act, or when state law is based on economics. The rationale for these bills is economic. These bills are not preempted, as explained in the Attachment.
S. 1798 - AN ACT ESTABLISHING FUNDING TO PROVIDE MONEYS FOR POSTCLOSURE ACTIVITIES AT NUCLEAR POWER STATIONS
The purpose of this Act is to insure that Pilgrim or any commercial nuclear power reactor in the Commonwealth will be properly decommissioned, in a timely manner, and that money deposited by the owner into the Commonwealth’s trust fund - not Massachusetts tax-payers - will pay for the decommissioning that the Act requires.
S. 1798 requires any Massachusetts commercial nuclear reactor to pay an annual
$25,000,000 post-closure funding fee into a trust fund at the State Treasurer to assure sufficient money for cleanup. After the reactor is completely decommissioned, any excess in the fund will be returned to the plant owner, with interest.
Pilgrim’s Decommissioning Trust Fund is inadequate. It has $896.42 million (2014), $333.5 million less than the $1.23 billion estimated to decommission the smaller Vermont Yankee reactor. There is no rational reason that it will cost less to decommission Pilgrim. To the contrary, there is ample reason to expect that, in 2014 dollars, decommissioning Pilgrim will cost at least $100 million more than Entergy’s Vermont Yankee estimate, and there is reason to fear that the cost could be half a billion dollars more.
If there is not enough money, what will happen?
Citizens will be stuck paying the difference. Pilgrim’s owner is a limited liability company. There are no other guaranteed assets to pay for cleanup costs if it runs out of money for decommissioning.
Entergy may “raid” whatever it has in its decommissioning fund to meet expenses that have nothing to do with cleaning-up Pilgrim, as it is doing in Vermont to pay for spent fuel management and security costs, worker retirement costs, and local taxes further diminishing the fund.
If Entergy runs out of money and Massachusetts is left holding the bag, there unavoidably will be a temptation to do less to decommission and cleanup to save taxpayer money; and at the same time there will be less money for the Commonwealth to spend for other state purposes.
Without enough money to decommission, Entergy will “mothball” the Pilgrim reactor in place for up to 60 years. During that period, called “SAFSTOR,” workers with specific knowledge of spills and other specific problems will have retired, the workforce will be reduced to a skeleton crew, there will be no offsite emergency planning, and contributions to the state for environmental monitoring likely will be eliminated also.
Entergy refused to guarantee Vermont that Entergy would be financially responsible for decommissioning at Vermont Yankee. Massachusetts should expect that Entergy will similarly refuse to guarantee financial responsibility for cleaning-up Pilgrim.