|NRG ENERGY, INC. filed this Form 10-K on 02/29/2016|
Nuclear Waste — The federal government's program to construct a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada was discontinued in 2010. Since 1998, the U.S. DOE has been in default of the federal government's obligations to begin accepting spent nuclear fuel, or SNF, and high-level radioactive waste, or HLW, under the U.S. Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, or the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. Owners of nuclear plants, including the owners of STP, had been required to enter into contracts setting out the obligations of the owners and the U.S. DOE, including the fees to be paid by the owners for the U.S. DOE's services to license a spent fuel repository. Effective May 16, 2014, the U.S. DOE stopped collecting the fees.
On February 5, 2013, STPNOC entered into a settlement agreement with the U.S. DOE for payment of damages relating to the U.S. DOE's failure to accept SNF and HLW under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act through December 31, 2013, which was extended through an addendum dated January 24, 2014, to December 31, 2016. There are no facilities for the reprocessing or permanent disposal of SNF currently in operation in the U.S., nor has the NRC licensed any such facilities. STPNOC currently stores all SNF generated by its nuclear generating facilities in on-site storage pools. Since STPNOC's SNF storage pools do not have sufficient storage capacity for the life of the units, STPNOC is proceeding to construct dry cask storage capability on-site. STPNOC plans to continue to assert claims against the U.S. DOE for damages relating to the U.S. DOE's failure to accept SNF and HLW.
Effective October 20, 2014, the NRC issued its Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel rule that determined that licensees can safely store SNF at nuclear power plants beyond the original and renewed licensed operating life of the plants. The rule remains subject to legal challenges. Upon the effective date of the rule, the NRC lifted its suspension of licensing actions on nuclear power plants.
Under the federal Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act of 1980, as amended, the state of Texas is required to provide, either on its own or jointly with other states in a compact, for the disposal of all low-level radioactive waste generated within the state. STP's warehouse capacity is adequate for on-site storage until a site in Andrews County, Texas becomes fully operational.
Clean Water Act — The Company is required under the CWA to comply with intake and discharge requirements, requirements for technological controls and operating practices. As with air quality regulations, federal and state water regulations are expected to impose additional and more stringent requirements or limitations in the future. This includes requirements governing cooling water intake structures, which are subject to regulation under section 316(b) of the CWA (the 316(b) regulations). In August 2014, EPA finalized the regulation regarding the use of water for once through cooling at existing facilities to address impingement and entrainment concerns. NRG anticipates that more stringent requirements will be incorporated into some of its water discharge permits over the next several years as NPDES permits are renewed.
Effluent Limitations Guidelines — In November 2015, the EPA promulgated a rule revising the Effluent Limitations Guidelines for Steam Electric Generating Facilities, which will impose more stringent requirements (as individual permits are renewed) for wastewater streams from flue gas desulfurization, fly ash, bottom ash, and flue gas mercury control. The Company estimates that it would cost approximately $200 million over the next eight years (the majority of the cost would be incurred after 2019) to comply with this rule at 11 coal-fired plants. This regulation has been challenged and is subject to legal uncertainty. The Company decides to invest capital for environmental controls based on: the certainty of regulations; evaluation of different technologies; options to convert to gas; and the expected economic returns on the capital. Over the next several years, the Company will decide whether to proceed with these investments at each of the plants as permits are renewed based on, among other things, the legal certainty of the regulation and market conditions at that time.
Regional Environmental Issues
New Source Review — The EPA and various states have been investigating compliance of electric generating facilities with the pre-construction permitting requirements of the CAA known as “new source review,” or NSR. In 2007, Midwest Generation received an NOV from the EPA alleging that past work at Crawford, Fisk, Joliet, Powerton, Waukegan and Will County generating stations violated NSR and other regulations. These alleged violations are the subject of litigation described in Item 15 — Note 22, Commitments and Contingencies. In January 2009, GenOn received an NOV from the EPA alleging that past work at Keystone, Portland and Shawville generating stations violated regulations regarding NSR. In June 2011, GenOn received an NOV from the EPA alleging that past work at Avon Lake and Niles generating stations violated NSR. In December 2007, the NJDEP filed suit alleging that NSR violations occurred at the Portland generating station, which suit was resolved pursuant to a July 2013 Consent Decree. Additionally, in April 2013, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection issued four NOVs alleging that past work at oil-fired combustion turbines at the Torrington Terminal, Franklin, Branford and Middletown generating stations violated regulations regarding NSR.