"VERNON, Vt. -- The companies that own almost half the nation's nuclear reactors are not setting aside enough money to dismantle them, and many may sit idle for decades and pose safety and security risks as a result, an Associated Press investigation has found.
The shortfalls are caused not by fluctuating appetites for nuclear power but by the stock market and other investments, which have suffered huge losses over the past year and damaged the plants' savings, and by the soaring costs of decommissioning.
At 19 nuclear plants, owners have won approval to idle reactors for as long as 60 years, presumably enough time to allow investments to recover and eventually pay for dismantling the plants and removing radioactive material.
But mothballing reactors or shutting them down inadequately could pose dangerous health, environmental or security problems. In the worst cases, generally considered unlikely, risks include radioactive waste leaking from idled plants into groundwater, airborne releases or a terrorist attack."