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As Nuclear Reactors Age, the Money To Close Them Lags

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the what-could-go-wrong dept.

Government 292

Harperdog writes "A worrying bit of news about nuclear reactors in the U.S. from the NYT: 'The operators of 20 of the nation's aging nuclear reactors, including some whose licenses expire soon, have not saved nearly enough money for prompt and proper dismantling. If it turns out that they must close, the owners intend to let them sit like industrial relics for 20 to 60 years or even longer while interest accrues in the reactors' retirement accounts.'"

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292 comments

Two sides (2, Insightful)

Sav1or (2600417) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447215)

Part of me thinks we need to take risks in order to learn about and understand this powerful technology, and part of me doesn't want to mutate...

Re:Two sides (4, Insightful)

dch24 (904899) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447225)

No risk necessary. Just take the spent fuel and burn it in a newer-gen reactor.

Ok, ok, transporting radioactive waste is hazardous. So be careful about that.

Re:Two sides (1)

Sav1or (2600417) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447251)

Of course, I'm sure there are a million ways of taking care of things like this we haven't thought of yet. But that means money, and that's all going to that black stuff coming out of the ground.

Re:Two sides (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447429)

The technology that dch24 mentioned already exists. European nations already do it. The United States has an outdated treaty with Russia that prevents us from doing it.

Re:Two sides (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447663)

I just wikied around a bit on this subject, it's pretty neat. I'm assuming we're talking fast & fast-breeder reactors, here?
I had seen a bit on the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor, previously, and it looked like a pretty awesome solution to our energy needs as well. I think there was a video called Thorium Remux, or something like that.

Re:Two sides (5, Interesting)

davester666 (731373) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447491)

This is exactly what happens in the gas business. For decades, gas stations were "independently owned", and when they closed, the owner never would have the money to clean up the site [as gas always winds up leaking into the ground from the tanks and the various lines]. Then the gov't would require a deposit, which was simply forfeited as it was too small to cover cleaning up the site. Finally, they forced the main petroleum industry companies to [whichever 'brand' was on the station] pay for cleaning up the sites. And what to they do...just flatten the buildings, put up a temporary fence around the now-vacant lot, and just pay the now-minimal property tax on the site indefinitely...

Re:Two sides (2)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447749)

no need to transport it - build a new gen reactor in situ. might as well use that land for something.

Re:Two sides (4, Insightful)

fluffy99 (870997) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447977)

No risk necessary. Just take the spent fuel and burn it in a newer-gen reactor.

What about the other large quantity of low-level stuff like the containment chamber, piping, etc. Really the fuel itself is the least of the cleanup problem.

Re:Two sides (2, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447679)

Not sure there need be any risks. I see nothing inherently dangerous about nuclear reactors. We know sodium reactors don't go critical even when there's a total coolant failure. The only danger is that sodium and water shouldn't mix, so avoid using water in the reactor if you're using sodium.

Radioactive dust is a major hazard, but since there's no reason to expose the fuel rods to air, there's no reason for there to be radioactive dust.

Radioactive waste is another hazard, but if you reprocess the rods and separate the different radioisotopes, you can reduce the hazard. Unspent uranium can be put into a new fuel rod, a secondary reactor for consuming plutonium shouldn't be hard, several of the other isotopes have uses in industry, some plutonium can be used in nuclear batteries for space missions, and you only need to deal with what's left. Much less space than trying to store the lot - and it's probably a lot safer.

All safety and backup systems should be triply redundant (at least), with redundant systems NOT in the same place as each other. If by the beach or in earthquake zones, redundant systems should also be behind watertight doors and not kept at ground level. (Active earthquake protection is practical these days, but you need somewhere to put the shock absorbers and protection against sheer forces.)

All this adds cost, yes, but so does leaving a reactor unused for 20+ years. I'm fairly confident that the above is a damn sight cheaper.

Re:Two sides (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447991)

Not sure there need be any risks. I see nothing inherently dangerous about nuclear reactors. We know sodium reactors don't go critical even when there's a total coolant failure. The only danger is that sodium and water shouldn't mix, so avoid using water in the reactor if you're using sodium.

Yeah, molten sodium. What could possibly go wrong?? [youtube.com]

Unlikely (5, Insightful)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447219)

They'll just use corrupt business laws and politics to rape the "retirement accounts" for their own benefit. Then they'll leave the dangerous corpses of their businesses as a warning to future generations on the stupidity of trusting your future to lowest-common-denominator businessmen.

Re:Unlikely (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447245)

Or we can give it over to the gov who ... oh wait they dont have the money either... hm well thats a problem...

Re:Unlikely (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447403)

who cares if they have money if they have power. Money is really just an abstraction of power/useful work. If the government actually handled the power grid, it should never actually cost more than it could get.

Re:Unlikely (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447525)

Exactly. The government really has no shortage of money, but even if it did, it's got plenty of authority.

Who would I rather trust, a corporation that'll dissolve when it become inconvenient, or a government that intends to last at least long enough to represent my grandchildren?

Re:Unlikely (2)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447557)

Excellent. Let's bring back press-gangs for nuclear clean-up. Also, anything else our wise leaders can think of, including labor for their pals in industry.

Instead, let's get rid of the dumb regulations stopping us from building breeder reactors and let the operators of those reactors FIGHT WITH EACH OTHER for the rights to get to all that "waste", with the end result being that they pay for clean-up and quite a bit more.

Re:Unlikely (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447985)

Mquote>Instead, let's get rid of the dumb regulations stopping us from building breeder reactors ...

Regulations have nothing to do with it.
In 1977, President Carter issued an executive order banning the reprocessing of nuclear fuel.
Three Republicans (including Saint Reagan) and two Democrats have seen fit to continue Carter's policy.

If you have a problem with the status quo, take it up with Obama or one of the Republican Presidential candidates.

Re:Unlikely (4, Interesting)

Formalin (1945560) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447415)

Of course, why pay for clean-up?

Much better to ride that "retirement fund" as a golden parachute for yourself, and externalise the actual costs onto the backs of taxpayers (and become the next superfund site).

Re:Unlikely (1, Funny)

Stan92057 (737634) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447465)

yep your right this is how we lost manufacturing in the USA also. We are all taxed..heavily for the repairs to roads and bridges only to have our politicians rape the coffers so now we don't have the funds to repair our Bridges because they need it but have to wait until a bridge falls down to get it fixed.

Re:Unlikely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447715)

You missed the part where they then lease roads/bridges to private companies (for up to 99 years), who get to put toll booths on them to make citizens pay for the privilege of driving on roads/bridges their tax money was already taken to pay for.

Re:Unlikely (1)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447831)

You do know that roads require maintenance and repair, right? That brand new road is going to be a pothole filled moonscape in 50 years, and will need to be completely reconstructed. Should everyone pay for that, or just the users?

Re:Unlikely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447577)

Holy spin batman. The retirement accounts probably already assumed interest when they sized them. Someone mentioned below they let them sit to reduce the radiation they risk spreading around. They are still probably inspected and maintained and secured.

Re:Unlikely (5, Interesting)

inviolet (797804) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447743)

They'll just use corrupt business laws and politics to rape the "retirement accounts" for their own benefit. Then they'll leave the dangerous corpses of their businesses as a warning to future generations on the stupidity of trusting your future to lowest-common-denominator businessmen.

Yep.

It's situations like this, and the revelation of how costs were cut on Fukushima's seawall by omitting the datapoint of the big tsunami in the 1800s, that made me realize something that shocked me:

Nuclear power is perfectly safe, ideal, and awesome... but nuclear power built by humans is NOT. As a species we are short-sighted venal lying scammers, so there are many glorious technologies (nanotech anyone?) that become liabilities in our hands.

Re:Unlikely (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447941)

Based on your logic we shouldn't ever build anything. I'm just going to sell all my material possessions, dig a hole and lie in it because fuck it. Why bother? We're all huge fuck-ups anyway.

Oh, wait. Maybe we aren't?

Re:Unlikely (3, Insightful)

caffemacchiavelli (2583717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447963)

I don't think that the kind of species we are is the problem here. Capitalism prides itself on setting good incentives, but some of the real incentives that are created are just destructive and wicked, as is demonstrated nicely in this story. You can't just assume that people using massive amounts of tech and labor for their own self-interest is going to be just fine for everyone, as long as we put a bunch of regulations in place. I'd really like to see more research into alternative economic systems, I feel like it's time to move on to something smarter.

Re:Unlikely (2)

dankasak (2393356) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447789)

Exactly. What astute capitalist would waste their money on a proper cleanup when there is no more profiting to be had? Better to hire accountants to hide the money, preferably transferring the assets and risk and clean-up responsibility to some shelf company with $1 in the bank. If the US government has a problem with the radioactive waste sitting around, they can always make radiation-laden ammunitions and dump it on the next civilian population standing in the way of the empire.

Re:Unlikely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39448021)

"shelf company"? It's "shell", dumbass.

Re:Unlikely (4, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447803)

Or they'll just do what the NG wildcatters do in my state which is "the shell game' and goes like this: Set up a corp to own ALL the things you find valuable, mineral rights, hell even the office furniture and then LEASE them to yourself through a shell corp, will call them shitcorp or shitc for short. then when you get in trouble for dumping or causing a quake or what have you and people and the businesses you screwed come looking to sue you burn shitc and then simple make a NEW shell corp called...oh we'll say shitd. Since all the things worth having were never owned by shitc in the first place there is nothing to sue for, unless you want some shitc office stationary or something, and they walk away with the profits and just do the same shell game all over again.

If you want proof why the entire corporate system is just fucking evil now its shit like the above, they have screwed countless people in my home state by doing that trick which lets them have ZERO responsibilities folks, they don't have to worry about pollution or tearing shit up or destroying the land because its all 100% consequence free! No how many do you think are gonna care about what they do to the environment if it costs them absolutely nothing if they ignore the rules and hundreds of thousands if not millions to follow them?

What?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447229)

Are you telling me that the capitalists behind these ventures didn't plan for the future in a manner that was beneficial for all!??!!!1?!one!?!

Re:What?! (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447497)

the capitalists behind these ventures didn't plan for the future in a manner that was beneficial for all!??!!!

No one asked for benefits for all. It would be nice if they planned in a way that used a portion of revenue to cover liabilities. You know, like a properly run business is supposed to do?

Nuclear energy is not going away. We need to deal these issues honestly and soon.

Re:What?! (0)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447571)

There weren't any capitalists planning this. Only fascists.

Why do you think no-one has been allowed to open a new nuke plant in this country in DECADES? The current nukes don't like the competition, and like artificially high energy prices.

Like a wife (5, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447233)

They might be expensive to keep around. Until you price a divorce.

Re:Like a wife (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447791)

My ex was an idiot and a bitch. It was cheaper to get rid of her but then I gather I am more lucky than others in this regard.

PUC (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447235)

Gee, the Public Utility Commissions setting rates wouldn't have anything to do with inadequate money saved, would it?

Re:PUC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447289)

I don't know about other states, but in California the Reactor Retirement Charge is a line item, set at so many pennies per 100 kWh.
You would think they'd have some smart people planning how much that needs to be, and adjusting according to changing projections.

Re:PUC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447303)

...have anything to do with inadequate money saved ...

There are a number of reasons: price ceilings, price cutting, investor returns. All these financial controls mean less money for taking 'care of business'. Especially those businesses that have to retire/re-tool their plants. Note that Chevrolet is re-financed by the US government every ten years.

Re:PUC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447485)

depends on whether you think you should pay .45/kwhr so managers of a PUBLIC utility can continue to treat it as their personal corporate welfare playground.

Is there anyone left that plays things straight? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447253)

Re:Is there anyone left that plays things straight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447541)

0_O

Collecting interest (4, Insightful)

steelscalp (1383757) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447273)

It seems unlikely that interest will grow faster than the cost of dismantling increases. But, letting the shortest half-life stuff decay will make the task a little less challenging.

Re:Collecting interest (4, Informative)

nojayuk (567177) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447427)

The UK's older reactors like the Magnox units are being decommissioned on a long-term basis, about 80 years from shutdown to final clearing of the reactor site. The delay is to allow the radioactivity in the core components such as the reactor vessel and primary steam piping to decay to virtually nothing which makes future dismantling easier.

After shutdown the spent fuel is removed and a start is made demolishing non-radioactive parts of the reactor complex such as the turbine halls, control rooms etc. What is left is no real danger to anyone; the reactor containment is sealed off and left to sit with a simple wire fence around it for the next fifty or sixty years before final demolishing of the rest of the reactor is carried out.

I imagine the US reactors are up for similar custodial treatment and the newspaper reports are sensationalistic garbage as they usually are. Some decommissioning is carried out more rapidly here and there in the world but usually because the site is going to be quickly reused to build a new reactor complex on it -- for example the Japanese are in the final stages of decommissioning and dismantling a small Magnox reactor at Tokai about ten years after it shut down but it is on the site of one of their nuclear research and development centres.

Re:Collecting interest (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447627)

That tends to be exactly what happens. In addition, replacement reactors are built on the same site next to decommissioned reactors making any security monitoring costs basically nil.

While it is quite possible to completely dismantle a reactor within 1 year, it is about 100x cheaper to wait 10 years and 1000x cheaper to simply wait 50 years. Unlike with conventional pollutants, nuclear stuff simply ceases to be the problem as a function of time.

Re:Collecting interest (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447691)

in the UK the nuclear industry is owned by the government, precisely because they couldn't sell it off once everyone had realised the cost and responsibilties of decomissioning.

in the US the industry is owned by the Corporate-Industrial complex which can lie about such matters until the money runs out. Then the state will be left to clean up. Tax payers pick up the bill in the end whatever the politics.

More worrying is the financial and political incentive to keep these machines running way beyond their expiry dates just to put off the inevitable bankruptcy of shutting them down. Come on, what company is going to keep itself solvent solely to guarantee cleanup funds fifty years hence?

Re:Collecting interest (1)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447705)

The short half-life stuff tends to be the isotopes with market value in industrial applications. Cleaning these places up might recover enough material to cover the cost of the cleaning plus a bit extra.

Re:Collecting interest (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | more than 2 years ago | (#39448049)

It seems unlikely that interest will grow faster than the cost of dismantling increases.

It seems to me that the cost of dismantling will decrease. The core will become less radioactive with time, and 20 or 30 years from now we should be smarter about the process. Robotics should be much more advanced. There will be a larger market for more of the isotopes. Heck, 30 years from now most of the "waste" may be considered a valuable resource.

What is the hurry? It seems like waiting at least a few decades is a good idea.

Standard practice (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447309)

Regardless of money issues, this is a standard practice known as SAFSTOR [wikipedia.org]. The bulk of the radioactivity that makes dismantling a reactor difficult is in isotopes with short half lives, short enough that waiting even just 20 years to dismantle the reactor makes the job far easier and safer. This article sounds like BS to me.

Re:Standard practice (1)

mspohr (589790) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447993)

Like plutonium with a half life of 24,000 years?
Or cesium with an ecologic half life of 240 years?

Did the rules change? (5, Interesting)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447321)

It's easy to forget that when these reactors were set up the world was a different place. The "retirement" accounts for these reactors probably assumed a MUCH lower retirement cost. So it's not the fault of the utility if there isn't enough money in the accounts if the rules changed between point A and point B.

Something that is irritating about many regulations is that they're very casually passed sometimes without really considering what the rule actually costs. If these fellows didn't save enough by the standards of the old cost projections then I see no fault with them. This is a situation where the government should probably take responsibility for the costs IF they are in fact responsible for making them go up.

If they never were going to save enough even by the old rules then these utilities are at fault for mismanagement and I'd be fine with squeezing them to pony up the difference.

Regardless, the money required to dismantle these reactors is probably in excess of what the utilities are themselves liable. So the government should probably pay that difference.

I know a lot of people don't like this idea because budgets are getting tight. But when you pass regulations they cost someone money. If the government doesn't want to pay it can always relax the regulation in some circumstances. But short of that it isn't reasonable to change the rules on the utilities and then expect them to make up the difference.

Short of that, the utilities will do what they're already doing... just leaving the money in an account to mature until such time as it can cover dismantling costs.

So those are the options on the ground. Maybe I'm being unfair to someone... this is my impression of the matter.

Re:Did the rules change? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447365)

Seems to me that the business plan for the building and operating the reactors should have included dismantling. It might have been, but maybe several corporate take overs and mergers raided the fund to fiance the acquisition. Or it was assumed from the beginning that the taxpayers would subsidize the clean up. That would mean just another case of corporate welfare at huge cost to the average American.

Re:Did the rules change? (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447551)

Who can say. I'm sure that did happen in at least one case. If there is fraud or looting or mismanagement then I would of course agree the company is liable for that.

However, it is also very likely that they did plan for dismantling costs it's just that the costs have gone up radically in recent years because the rules have changed. Do you think the new regulations don't have a price? Who's paying for it? It has to come out of that dismantling fund and if they set it up assuming the old rules then they probably couldn't have enough in it.

The point is that an entirely responsible and honest company could find itself flatfooted if between point A and point B the rules change. They couldn't anticipate that the dismantling costs would double or quadruple.

So in the case of fraud or looting or mismanagment... yes... the company should be squeezed to pay the difference.

However, in instances where the company did save but the rules were changed... either the government should take responsibility for it's own decisions or you should simply accept the reactor sit there for 60 years while the fund gains value as a compromise.

Short of that, you can't make ex post facto regulations and then expect everyone to pay for it. A possible compromise would be to grand father all the reactors that were built prior to the new regulations... .that would be all of them because they're all pretty old.

Its very important in law to be reasonable. When you get unreasonable people stop obeying the law. Criminals don't get away with that because they're typically pretty stupid an a minority. But when laws get unreasonable for everyone then suddenly you find that law loses all it's teeth.

Just be careful... when you make everyone an outlaw you'll find that the outlaws outnumber everyone else.

Re:Did the rules change? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447385)

Libertarian ideology in a nutshell: public risk, private profit. Parent post is an excellent example of this. Private corporations make billions off nuclear plant, then the poor sods can't afford to clean them up properly, so the public should be put on the hook for it. I suppose your next great idea is that we should deregulate all nuclear power generation, eh, you fucking rand-tard? God I envy the Russians, at least they eventually realized that their ideologues were idiots and kicked them out. We appear to be stuck with self styled "atlases" for the rest of eternity, or at least long enough for this country to be shucked down the tubes by them.

Re:Did the rules change? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447563)

Not sure how this is trolling. GP is being a bit too lenient.

If my costs of cleaning something go up, no one bails me out, but legal fictions, sure. Maybe we should back off and regulate less. Then they will definitely clean it up. Right...

Re:Did the rules change? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447851)

He was modded -1 Disagree. Slashdot has more than its fair share of libtards, they're the political counterpart of religious nuts and will never let facts get in the way of their beliefs.

Re:Did the rules change? (3, Interesting)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447877)

You have defined "conservative", not "libertarian". A libertarian wouldn't ask for the government's help in cleaning it up. They would either be responsible, or sell the property to someone who values it and THEY would clean it up. But that is the fatal flaw of libertarianism: they assume everyone would be as responsible they believe themselves to be. With maybe a nice topping of ignoring the idea of negative value and externalities. In the libertarian paradise, they could sell or abandon the site, and someone would find value in it. But in reality, it is an albatross that would cost a new owner tons of money, even if the price was zero.

Re:Did the rules change? (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447931)

not sure how you read that into GP's post. it seems reasonable that if the goalposts are moved, the person moving them should be held responsible for the movement.

of course, the laws were bound to change along the line as more was learnt about the process. GP is simply stating that the responsible parties for the cleanup include the people that make the rules, should they change them halfway.

Re:Did the rules change? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447413)

Having worked in this industry, I'd mod you up if I had the points...

Re:Did the rules change? (5, Informative)

FishTankX (1539069) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447513)

One thing that was noted in the article is that a lot of the power companies HAD sufficient retirement funds, but a large portion of the value of their funds were wiped out in the economic crash of 2008. They mentioned one reactor's retirement fund crashing from $592m to somewhere north of 200m and even now not breaking 300m.

Thus, it's the economic turbulence weathering the vulnerable investments made on the retirement funds. This is not too far from a bunch of seniors who just had their retirement income wiped out, continuing to work after retirement to make up for the shortfall in their supposedly secure retirement funds.

Re:Did the rules change? (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447725)

ah, in that case they're not at fault. They put their money into AAA investments considered equal to treasury bonds.

If this is the case then no one is at fault besides possibly the rating agencies. And that means the reactors will sit there for years until their funds recover unless someone can figure out a way to finance it that doesn't punish people who ultimately are not at fault.

Re:Did the rules change? (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447815)

Yep, same kind of thing happened to my employer's retirement account. I work for a state university so we are all manditorily enrolled in a classic pension plan. The money we pay in is invested, of course. Well since the market went to shit we are short on what we need to cover obligations, so our contributions have gone up. When it recovers, they'll go down. Just how it works. I guess we could invest in nothing but AAA bonds or the like, but of course even with the volatility in general the investment fund means we need to pay in less than we would otherwise. In general the investment is pretty conservative, but the downturn was big, it hit everything.

So unless the power companies were stupid about it, I don't see the problem here. They were doing what is sensible and because of this downturn, now they have to wait longer. We could require that the money is invested only in high grade securities and so on, however we need to be prepared to pay more in that event. Nothing is free.

Re:Did the rules change? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39448061)

Yep, same kind of thing happened to my employer's retirement account. I work for a state university so we are all manditorily enrolled in a classic pension plan. The money we pay in is invested, of course. Well since the market went to shit we are short on what we need to cover obligations, so our contributions have gone up. When it recovers, they'll go down. Just how it works. I guess we could invest in nothing but AAA bonds or the like, but of course even with the volatility in general the investment fund means we need to pay in less than we would otherwise. In general the investment is pretty conservative, but the downturn was big, it hit everything.,

It's more fucked up than that: The Important Matter of Pension Accounting [ibankcoin.com].

Re:Did the rules change? (1)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447887)

They need to fire their investment bankers then, because even in my basically untouched 401k, I was back to even within 6-9 months of the bottom of the 2008 crash.

THE GOVERNMENT DOESN'T HAVE ANY MONEY! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447593)

THEY USE OURS!

Just because the government does it... doesn't make it free. On the contrary, it usually ends up costing the consumer much more because of graft and mismanagement.

The cleanup regulations should have automatically adjusted each year to account for the increase in cleanup costs. Those increases could then be factored into the yearly budget and the savings plan automatically adjusting payments up.

Re:THE GOVERNMENT DOESN'T HAVE ANY MONEY! (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447689)

True, which will make the real cost of regulation relevant. When people grasp that passing a given law means money out of their wallet they'll take the situation more seriously.

Re:THE GOVERNMENT DOESN'T HAVE ANY MONEY! (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447949)

either way, it seems the people are footing the bill - in your scenario because decommissioning is included in your cents/kwh, in GP's because the difference wasn't accounted for and must therefore come out of taxes.

Reason for rule changes (2)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447773)

Something that is irritating about many regulations is that they're very casually passed sometimes without really considering what the rule actually costs. If these fellows didn't save enough by the standards of the old cost projections then I see no fault with them.

That might be an irritating factor with many regulations but suppose the reason for the new regulation is well justified by science? For example if a factory was built several decades ago using asbestos and then decommissioned today the costs would be significantly higher than the original projections because, in the interim, we have discovered that asbestos is dangerous. So should a government be expected to pay the increased costs because they passed regulations to require asbestos to be safely removed? It's not their fault that asbestos turned out to be dangerous anymore than it is the company's fault.

I would argue that any increase in decommissioning costs due to regulations changing is a "risk of doing business" and therefore entirely the responsibility of the company who ran the plant. Governments are naturally motivated to keep these risks to a minimum in order to encourage businesses to flourish and keep costs to a minimum for their voters so there is a balance.

Re:Did the rules change? (1)

jgdobak (119142) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447807)

Regulation is almost always written by industry representatives to be as beneficial as possible to that industry, see healthcare,mortgage, and automotive industry regulation.

We're willing to yell at some poor uneducated asshole who is homeless because he took on an investment he couldn't afford (apparently he is omniscient)

BUT

When industrialists fuck up in a fashion that may directly impact the health and safety of millions (let alone their finances), you "see no fault with them."

You're a horrible human being, eat shit.

Re:Did the rules change? (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447833)

so what your saying is, that I the consumer can pay for this because someone made a financial plan and didn't bother to fucking update it since 1958, or I as a taxpayer can pay for this because someone made a financial plan and didn't bother to fucking update it since 1958?

how about the shit for brains that ran the places, pay for their incompetence out of their own? Like I would if I set a retirement plan in stone and expected the entire world to not change a single bit in 50 years?

Re:Did the rules change? (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447967)

It's just the old British Nuclear Fuels (and many others) policy of privitising the profits and socialising the expenses. Without very strict oversight and very strict rules about lobbying/bribing those that do the oversight it's the expected course, whether it's nuclear or not.

I sure hope so! (4, Funny)

evilviper (135110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447369)

Hell yeah! Nuclear power plants going for cheap. I'll take one! Surplus ICBM silos are interesting, but have far too many drawbacks. But nuclear power plants? Those things are bigger than a city block, above ground, extremely stable, etc. I'd love to buy one.

For starters, I think I'd start cutting up one of the cooling towers, until it looked like a giant medieval castle, just smooth and round instead of 4 stone walls. Re-enactments of Monty Python's & the Holy Grail are, of course, obligatory.

After that, I'd have to buy as much flesh-tone paint as I can afford. It would take some time, but just think of it... http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_omMU_7Vv1us/S7aqBJUCP_I/AAAAAAAAAIE/HMaftmCYRGM/s1600/san-onofre_songs.jpg [slashdot.org]">Giant nuclear boobies!

As an added bonus, nuclear power plants always need ample water, so you're guaranteed to get a private lake, river, or beachfront property, no matter which one you buy. They're also universally pretty close to mega population centers, so, while it's likely a nice quiet location, you won't be too far from a major city, unlike many of those silos.

Re:I sure hope so! (1)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447897)

As an added bonus, nuclear power plants always need ample water, so you're guaranteed to get a private lake, river, or beachfront property, no matter which one you buy.

A fission hole?

'proper' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447387)

Dig up the plant, and the soil, down to bedrock for an eight mile radius. Polish every grain with a surgical quality scrubber. Dispose of any contaminants in a mine dug to just beyond the mantel, somewhere near China.

Why should that be so expensive?

FTFY (1)

Dripdry (1062282) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447441)

... let them sit like industrial relics for 20 to 60 years or even longer while the owners retire and die so they don't bear any responsibility.

Accrue interest? That's an excuse so think it's basically a lie. They won't EVER accrue enough interest, those monies will lose out to inflation.

These people should be taken to court and jailed, or the companies heavily fined.

Re:FTFY (1)

FishTankX (1539069) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447539)

Would you be so hard on the plight of retirees who lost their retirement savings and are forced to some measure of desperation because it's too late for them to make it up?

It says in the article that a lot of the funds earmarked for reactor dismantlement were mangled by the economic crisis, my guess is that they had significant funds in the market, which is usually a sure bet to accrue interest in the long term. Then the stock market crash came, and we all know what happened next.

It is the plight of age, your ability to recover from mistakes made late in your existence is diminished.

Clean up is simple (4, Funny)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447455)

Do it the way 1st world countries deal with e-waste and other heavy metal contaminated waste. Ship it off to a 3rd world country!

Just name homer simpson as the guy to take the fal (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447481)

Just name homer simpson as the guy to take the fall.

So you do what now? oh just dump the waste where even I want?

I seem to remember (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447505)

Weren't we all told there was plenty of cash available for dismantling reactors? Interest rates are on par with inflation so in 50 years there will effectively be the same amount available. This is about stalling things until the government agrees to pick up the tab as they always do. Translated who gets to pay? We do!

Re:I seem to remember (4, Insightful)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447575)

while your knowledge of reactors and economics is spotty, your knowledge of government is uncanny.

Re:I seem to remember (1)

Formalin (1945560) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447583)

You're looking at it from the wrong angle. Interest is close to inflation, correct.

However, since wages haven been stagnant for years - and will continue to be - labour will be effectively much cheaper in 50 years!

This is just misleading (2)

Troggie87 (1579051) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447651)

This happens with many places that work with at least moderately radioactive material (not just reactors). What you do is tape the building/site in question off and allow it to sit for 1-2 decades. In that time the radioactivity typically decreases by orders of magnitude from decay. I can't speak to the cost savings, but so long as the site is properly fenced the safety concerns from handling all that waste go down by a lot. It isn't a bad decision in theory, but many small outfits just go "woops, can't pay to clean this up" and stick the EPA with the bill. Which is ackward, because you can't very well require the funds for cleanup up front because it would make buisnesses that use radiation in any significant way (radiopharmaceutical companies, as an example) impossibly expensive to start.

But I suppose the point of this is to attack "evil nuclear," so I'm probably wasting my time even expaining the reality. That seems to be in fashion nowadays, reality be damned.

So why close them? (1)

scottbomb (1290580) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447667)

Pardon my ignorance on the subject, but why exactly must they be closed? I did some googling on this very question and couldn't find any straightforward answer.

Re:So why close them? (1)

Scottingham (2036128) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447703)

Neutron embrittlement causes the metal casing of the core to lose it's strength. Also, they're old as shit.

fashion jewelry uk (-1, Offtopic)

snowflakerings (2601501) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447681)

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More Cores? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447683)

Why not just add more modern cores next to the existing old ones? Prolonged profit from the same site ensures that the old cores will be looked after. Cores really aren't that large, much of the room is the cooling and power grid connections. Those could be re-purposed.

We should seriously start attempting to achieve cores that do not need refueling for decades. The toshiba 4s is the farthest along in testing. It is designed to work continuously for 30 years.

With the benefit of increasingly available super computers needed to model complex interactions of fuel alloys could bring the technology to hundreds, if not 1000s of years of running without need of refueling. Though at that point I suppose it'd be more like 'before wearing out'.

Science fiction? Yeah, now....nothing in what I just wrote violates any of the laws of thermodynamics...so I say possible.

We landed on the moon, didn't we?

Adjacent modern cores? (1)

Scottingham (2036128) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447699)

Why not just add more modern cores next to the existing old ones? Prolonged profit from the same site ensures that the old cores will be looked after. Cores really aren't that large, much of the room is the cooling and power grid connections. Those could be re-purposed.

We should seriously start attempting to achieve cores that do not need refueling for decades. The toshiba 4s is the farthest along in testing. It is designed to work continuously for 30 years.

With the benefit of increasingly available super computers needed to model complex interactions of fuel alloys we could bring fission technology to hundreds, if not 1000s of years of running without need of refueling. Though at that point I suppose it'd be more like 'before wearing out'.

Science fiction? Yeah, now....nothing in what I just wrote violates any of the laws of thermodynamics...so I say possible.

We landed on the moon, didn't we?

let them sit while interest accrues (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447719)

let them sit like industrial relics for 20 to 60 years or even longer while interest accrues

Wow, it's a good thing that interest rates are so high now that they will greatly outpace inflation and make the a reality. Time for the power companies to give themselves another round of bonuses for coming up with this one and making it someone else's problem. Oh, wait ....

Create a religion (1)

Trax3001BBS (2368736) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447755)

The question of what to do with everything radioactive was addressed in this area a long time ago.

First and foremost was to get it in the ground, bury it all. The problem comes a few
thousand years in the future when someone wants to dig in the area.

Signs could be unrecognizable after a thousand years, stone monolith defaced or a
language forgotten, line figures that make sense now might not in the future.

One suggestion was to create a religion, A message to pass along to future
generations: "ohmmm do not dig for 10,000 years".

Just one of many suggestions, but my favorite.

Nuclear energy is just what we need. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447781)

Pfft, we all know that nuclear reactors are perfectly safe .. as all of the different IAEA studies have shown. And the US infrastructure is already critically underfunded, why don't the power producers give the structures to the government? They can be used as schools, hospitals, jails .. you name it! The best part is, they're so robustly built that they'll last FOREVER!

The NY Times has completely dropped the ball here. It's hard to believe that such a reputable news agency would post such hyperbole. If this were REALLY a problem, don't you think that the honest, hard working, dedicated nuclear plant operators would have done something about it? This is JUST like the tobacco industry, once the blood sucking media get hold of a story they'll suck honest hard working people dry!

And further more, why shut down the plants anyway? We all know that these plants have the BEST safety record in the history of mankind and they're carbon neutral. Given that global warming is the biggest disaster mankind has ever seen, we just can't afford to not leave these sturdy, proven and reliable plants running. And don't get me started on nuclear disasters, the largest earthquake in known history doesn't make technology dangerous .. it was just bad luck.

Pfft, mountain from a mole hill. Give me the plants, I'll fit 1,000 trailers in each and call it 'Nukem Trailer Parks'. Easy fix.

Heh (3, Insightful)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447811)

Their plan is to get the government, and by association the taxpayer, to pay for the shutdown.

There is, however, a flipside to this: should the need for energy suddenly sky-rocket, they will, no doubt, be recommissioned, with special permits to allow their continued operation (to the horror of the people who understand just how badly these reactors need to be replaced). The fun part is that we will then be continuing to run dangerously out of date nuclear power-plants, with all of the original design flaws; the government, with all of its spin, will play up the fact that they are saving the taxpayers billions of dollars in doing so.

Those of us who are proponents of nuclear technology will, of course, facepalm with the force of thousand Arnold Schwarzeneggers at this development. The green lobby, of course, will scream at this continued injustice.

And yet we're not building any more. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39447813)

Nor drilling for oil, nor building coal-fired power plants, or any other generating station that burns evil hydrocarbons.

Hope you live in AZ or Florida so you can be saved by solar, and can put solar fuel in your gas tank.

The liberals that hate oil and nuclear also hate windmills because it messes up their view from Martha's Vineyard or kills coo coo birds (KENNEDY).

Meanwhile, China drives forward, bringing a power plant online every two weeks.

God help us.

Is this what they mean by a 'hot mess"? (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 2 years ago | (#39447983)

As Nuclear Reactors Age, the Money To Close Them Lags

For many Slashdotters, money is usually what's needed to open lags, not close them.

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