Zion Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Trust Fund Depleting Quickly

The balance in the Zion Nuclear Power Plant decommissioning trust fund was about 30% lower at the end of 2014 than it was the previous year according to a report filed by ZionSolutions with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on March 30.

The Report on Status of Decommissioning Funding for Shutdown Reactors—due annually—indicated that there was a total of $280.2 million in the trust fund on Dec. 31, 2014.  Last year’s report showed a balance of just over $400 million.

ZionSolutions—the EnergySolutions subsidiary responsible for decommissioning the former Exelon plant located on the shores of Lake Michigan in Zion, Ill.—still anticipates an end-of-project surplus of $13.1 million, but that is less than half of the $28.5 million it estimated last year. The company spent $119.6 million on radiological decommissioning in 2014, according to the report.

The trust fund balance, together with EnergySolutions’ resources and a $200 million letter of credit backup, is said to provide sufficient funding and financial assurance for completion of radiological decommissioning of the Zion project.

Zion Units 1 and 2 were permanently shut down on Feb. 13, 1998. On Sept. 1, 2010, the facility license was transferred from Exelon to ZionSolutions for the express purpose of expediting the decommissioning of the site. ZionSolutions is using a rip-and-ship process that reduces the labor-intensive separation of contaminated materials. Waste is being transported from the facility in bulk to an EnergySolutions disposal site in Utah.

In January, ZionSolutions announced that it had successfully completed removal of all spent nuclear fuel from the storage pool. The fuel was loaded into 61 dry cask storage containers and transferred to the independent spent-fuel storage installation (ISFSI) pad in less than 12 months. The company will maintain security and monitoring of the ISFSI until the decommissioning project is finished.

Upon completion, expected in 2020, the operating licenses, ISFSI, and the associated fuel will be transferred back to Exelon’s custody. Exelon retained $25 million of the decommissioning trust fund for that purpose, which was not included in ZionSolutions annual report.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)