Nuclear, Reactors

CUB Fights ComEd $726 Million Decommissioning Plan

CHICAGO—The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) is asking state regulators to reject Commonwealth Edison’s plan to charge consumers $726 million over the next six years for the future decommissioning of its nuclear power plants.

In testimony being filed recently with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), experts hired by CUB and the City of Chicago show that ComEd’s plan would allow the company to charge ratepayers far more money than it will likely need to safely decommission its 13 nuclear reactors. Decommissioning a nuclear reactor entails dismantling it and decontaminating, removing and disposing of the plant and its radioactive materials.

State and federal law allows ComEd to collect money in today’s rates for the future dismantling of its nuclear plants. That money is put into a trust fund, where it is invested and held for future use by the utility.

ComEd currently collects about $90 million a year in rates for decommissioning, but wants to increase that amount to $121 million a year. The company wants to collect the funds for another six years, for a total of $726 million in decommissioning funds from ratepayers. When the new funds are added to the $2.5 billion already in the trust fund and interest on the funds is compounded, ComEd claims it will have enough money to cover its estimated decommissioning costs of $5.4 billion.

However, CUB’s study, filed with the ICC, shows that ComEd is likely to end up with between $1 billion and $3.7 billion more than will be needed to dismantle the plants because the company is likely to delay decommissioning for at least 20 years. During that time, the money in the decommissioning trust funds will continue to earn interest. Any funds left over after the plants are decommissioned go into Edison’s pocket.

“ComEd is already collecting enough from ratepayers to cover any reasonable estimate of decommissioning costs,” said CUB executive director Martin Cohen. “Allowing the company to dip further into consumers’ pockets is simply unfair.”

The ICC is expected to rule on the case in November. The increased decommissioning rate is part of a larger ComEd plan to move its nuclear reactors into an unregulated, affiliate company.

ComEd would sign contracts to purchase power from the new company.