|NRG ENERGY, INC. filed this Form 10-K on 03/01/2018|
There are unique risks to owning and operating a nuclear power facility. These include liabilities related to the handling, treatment, storage, disposal, transport, release and use of radioactive materials, particularly with respect to spent nuclear fuel, and uncertainties regarding the ultimate, and potential exposure to, technical and financial risks associated with modifying or decommissioning a nuclear facility. The NRC could require the shutdown of the plant for safety reasons or refuse to permit restart of the unit after unplanned or planned outages. New or amended NRC safety and regulatory requirements may give rise to additional operation and maintenance costs and capital expenditures. Additionally, aging equipment may require more capital expenditures to keep each of these nuclear power plants operating efficiently. This equipment is also likely to require periodic upgrading and improvement. Any unexpected failure, including failure associated with breakdowns, forced outages, or any unanticipated capital expenditures, could result in reduced profitability. STP will be obligated to continue storing spent nuclear fuel if the U.S. DOE continues to fail to meet its contractual obligations to STP made pursuant to the U.S. Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 to accept and dispose of STP's spent nuclear fuel. See also Item 1 — Regulatory Matters — Nuclear Operations - Decommissioning Trusts and Item 1 — Environmental Matters — Federal Environmental Initiatives — Nuclear Waste for further discussion. Costs associated with these risks could be substantial and could have a material adverse effect on NRG's results of operations, financial condition or cash flow to the extent not covered by the Decommissioning Trusts or recovered from ratepayers. In addition, to the extent that all or a part of STP is required by the NRC to permanently or temporarily shut down or modify its operations, or is otherwise subject to a forced outage, NRG may incur additional costs to the extent it is obligated to provide power from more expensive alternative sources — either NRG's own plants, third party generators or the ERCOT — to cover the Company's then existing forward sale obligations. Such shutdown or modification could also lead to substantial costs related to the storage and disposal of radioactive materials and spent nuclear fuel.
While STP maintains property and liability insurance for losses related to nuclear operations, there may be limitations on the amounts and types of insurance commercially available. See also Item 15 — Note 22, Commitments and Contingencies, Nuclear Insurance. An accident at STP or another nuclear facility could have a material adverse effect on NRG's financial condition, its operational results, or liquidity as losses may exceed the insurance coverage available and/or may result in the obligation to pay retrospective premium obligations.
NRG is subject to environmental laws that impose extensive and increasingly stringent requirements on the Company's ongoing operations, as well as potentially substantial liabilities arising out of environmental contamination. These environmental requirements and liabilities could adversely impact NRG's results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.
NRG is subject to the environmental laws of foreign and U.S., federal, state and local authorities. The Company must comply with numerous environmental laws and obtain numerous governmental permits and approvals to build and operate the Company's plants. Federal and state environmental laws generally have become more stringent over time, although this trend could slow or pause. Should NRG fail to comply with any environmental requirements that apply to its operations, the Company could be subject to administrative, civil and/or criminal liability and fines, and regulatory agencies could take other actions seeking to curtail the Company's operations. In addition, when new requirements take effect or when existing environmental requirements are revised, reinterpreted or subject to changing enforcement policies, NRG's business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows could be adversely affected.
NRG's businesses are subject to physical, market and economic risks relating to potential effects of climate change.
Climate change is producing changes in weather and other environmental conditions, including temperature and precipitation levels, and thus may affect consumer demand for electricity. In addition, the potential physical effects of climate change, such as increased frequency and severity of storms, floods and other climatic events, could disrupt NRG's operations and supply chain, and cause them to incur significant costs in preparing for or responding to these effects. These or other meteorological changes could lead to increased operating costs, capital expenses or power purchase costs. NRG's commercial and residential customers may also experience the potential physical impacts of climate change and may incur significant costs in preparing for or responding to these efforts, including increasing the mix and resiliency of their energy solutions and supply.
Climate change could also affect the availability of a secure and economical supply of water in some locations, which is essential for the continued operation of NRG's generation plants. Water risk is monitored by the risk owners (individual plant operators) and reported to Company management upon changes with a significance threshold of 20% in water consumption and withdrawal levels. If it is determined that a water supply risk exists that could impact projected generation levels at any plant within the subsequent two year time frame, risk mitigation efforts are identified and economically evaluated for implementation. Water risk regarding the impact for barge delivery is evaluated on a daily basis, with contingency plans developed as needed.
GHG regulation could increase the cost of electricity generated by fossil fuels, and such increases could reduce demand for the power NRG generates and markets. Also, demand for NRG's energy-related services could be similarly impacted by consumers’ preferences or market factors favoring energy efficiency, low-carbon power sources or reduced electricity usage.