Too many rules can make any plant uncompetitive.
Now, more than ever, the commission must weigh
the costs when it looks at health and safety, decommissioning and antitrust impacts. Nuclear assets seem to pop to the surface wherever one looks for causes behind the current upheaval in the U.S. electric utility industry. The nuclear experience (em with its costly prudence reviews so prevalent during the 1980s (em has helped fuel a major shift in attitude.
Senior utility managers have now come to accept fundamental changes in the electric industry. This change in attitude stems in part from high production costs in isolated areas and marked regional differences in retail rates. And, in many cases where electric rates are considered "high," a heavy commitment to nuclear power is involved.
One scenario for a restructured industry would envision an independent, unregulated generating sector. In fact, some proposals have already surfaced that would have utilities divest themselves of some or all of their generating assets, including nuclear plants.
If utilities should proceed as suggested, and transfer ownership of their nuclear assets, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission would likely play a significant role, based on the substantive and procedural laws and regulations currently in place. The specter of NRC involvement in turn poses key questions: How will the NRC react to proposals to transfer nuclear assets? Moreover, how will the NRC enforce rules, regulations and nuclear legislation, now that generation may become deregulated, putting at risk any costs incurred by plant owners to comply with NRC directives?