Callan’s annual Nuclear Decommissioning Funding Study offers key insights into the status of nuclear decommissioning funding in the U.S. to make peer comparisons more accurate and relevant. In our 2022 study, we found that nuclear decommissioning trust (NDT) fund balances totaled almost $96 billion in 2021, up almost 12% from a year earlier largely due to equity market performance. Those equity gains also helped total funding as a percentage of total decommissioning cost estimates, which hit 97.4% in 2021, an 11.8 percentage point increase from the previous year.
The 2022 study covers 27 investor-owned and 26 public power utilities with an ownership interest in the 93 operating and 15 of the non-operating nuclear reactors in the U.S. NDTs are created to pay for the costs of decommissioning a closed nuclear power plant, which involves safely removing it from service and reducing residual radioactivity to a level that permits release of the property and termination of the operating license.
Our study also found that total decommissioning cost estimates amounted to over $98 billion in 2021, a modest decrease from a year earlier. And total contributions from utilities into their NDTs rose to $290 million in 2021, a 17% increase from 2020.
Other key findings from our NDT study:
- The median escalation rate (used in forecasting future decommissioning expenditures given current dollar cost estimates) for all plants was 2.88% with an average of 3.41%.
- The asset allocations for 19 investor-owned utilities showed median equity and fixed income allocations of 60% and 38%, respectively. While all 19 investor-owned utility NDTs were invested in equity, only 10 of the 16 public power utility NDTs reported having an equity investment. The median allocation of those with an equity investment was 66%.
- The median investment return for all NDTs was 13.1% for 2021, with an average of 10.4%.
- Public power trust returns were 613 basis points below those of investor-owned trusts on average and exhibited a much wider range of results due to a number of trusts being 100% fixed income.
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