|NRG ENERGY, INC. filed this Form 10-K on 02/29/2016|
Decommissioning Trusts — Upon expiration of the operating licenses for the two generating units at STP, currently scheduled for 2027 and 2028, the co-owners of STP are required under federal law to decontaminate and decommission the STP facility. Under NRC regulations, a power reactor licensee generally must pre-fund the full amount of its estimated NRC decommissioning obligations unless it is a rate-regulated utility, or a state or municipal entity that sets its own rates, or has the benefit of a state-mandated non-bypassable charge available to periodically fund the decommissioning trust such that the trust, plus allowable earnings, will equal the estimated decommissioning obligations by the time the decommissioning is expected to begin.
NRG South Texas LP, through its 44% ownership interest, is the beneficiary of decommissioning trusts that have been established to provide funding for decontamination and decommissioning of STP. CenterPoint and AEP collect, through rates or other authorized charges to their electric utility customers, amounts designated for funding NRG South Texas LP's portion of the decommissioning of the facility. NRG South Texas LP filed a decommissioning cost rate case with the PUCT in 2013 based upon a third party cost study and assuming a twenty year license extension, which resulted in a decrease in the rate of collections. The PUCT approved the rate changes. See also Item 15 — Note 6, Nuclear Decommissioning Trust Fund, to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional discussion.
In the event that the funds from the trusts are ultimately determined to be inadequate to decommission the STP facilities, the original owners of the Company's STP interests, CenterPoint and AEP, each will be required to collect, through their PUCT-authorized non-bypassable rates or other charges to customers, additional amounts required to fund NRG South Texas LP's obligations relating to the decommissioning of the facility. Following the completion of the decommissioning, if surplus funds remain in the decommissioning trusts, those excesses will be refunded to the respective rate payers of CenterPoint or AEP, or their successors.
STP License Amendment — On November 18, 2015, STP Unit 1 Shutdown Bank Control Rod D6 was determined to be inoperable following a scheduled refueling and maintenance outage. Following extensive analyses, on December 3, 2015, STPNOC submitted an Emergency License Amendment Request to the NRC seeking authorization to operate Unit 1 during the next 18-month operating cycle with 56 full-length control rods instead of 57. The NRC approved the license amendment on December 11, 2015. The approved license amendment supports STP Unit 1 operation with Control Rod D6 and the associated control rod drive shaft removed. STPNOC anticipates seeking a license amendment to allow for the continued operation of Unit 1 in this configuration in the first quarter of 2016.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission Near-Term Task Force Report — On July 12, 2011, the NRC Near-Term Task Force, or the Task Force, issued its report, which reviewed nuclear processes and regulations in light of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan. The Task Force concluded that U.S. nuclear plants are operating safely and did not identify changes to the existing nuclear licensing process nor recommend fundamental changes to spent nuclear fuel storage. The Task Force report made recommendations in three key areas: the NRC's regulatory framework, specific plant design requirements, and emergency preparedness and actions. Among other things, the Task Force required each operator to conduct a review of seismic and flooding risks (beyond the design license basis). STPNOC’s analysis confirmed the design adequacy and determined that no other actions are needed with respect to these risks. In conducting its review, STPNOC followed the guidance in the “Seismic Evaluation Guidance: Screening, Prioritization, and Implementation Details (SPID) for the Resolution of Fukushima Near-Term Task Force Recommendation 2.1: Seismic” report published by the Electric Power Research Institute.
Other responsive actions include installation of additional safety-related, redundant cooling systems, hardening of spent fuel pool instrumentation, improved emergency communications and increased responsive staffing, and the establishment of two FLEX (Flexible Emergency Response Equipment) sites serving the entire industry. With respect to STP, all currently identified tasks were completed with the conclusion of the refueling outage in December 2015. Until further action is taken by the NRC (including issuance of actions required in response to Tier 2 and 3 recommendations), the Company cannot definitively predict the impact of any additional recommendations by the Task Force and could be required to make additional investments at STP Units 1 and 2.