Where’s the money from the Zion Nuclear Facility Trust Funds?

September 15, 2011

Over the past two years, several of my Letters to the Editor have been published in the Lake Forester zeroing in on the 2,100 megawatt Dual Zion Nuclear Facility, which I continue to feel was prematurely and unwisely shut down in 1998.

Despite diligent pursuit to resolve why The Zion Station was shuttered with its possibility of so many more years of productive life, the answer forthcoming from Exelon Corporation, headed by CEO and President John Rowe, never changed and did not meet the smell test. The standard answer given was one of economics.

Another question never resolved in my mind was why Exelon Corporation never attempted to sell The Zion Station to another entity if Exelon felt unable to operate it at a profit? Exelon Corporation, which also owns Commonwealth Edison, operates 10 stations and 17 nuclear units through its subsidiary, Exelon Nuclear, making Exelon Corporation the owner of the largest nuclear fleet in the United States.

Up until Sept. 1 of last year when Exelon Corporation transferred The Zion Station and its decommissioning fund to newly formed ZionSolution to dismantle Zion, I harbored the belief that somehow the Dual Zion Nuclear Station could escape destruction. Surely Illinois will have need for more electrical power sources in the future now that the EPA has mandated new regulation covering sulfur emissions from coal-fired plants. Because of the expense of updating older coal-fired plants, many of the older coal-fired plants will instead by shut down be their utility owners. Illinois has 25 coal-fired plants. One is located just north of here in Waukegan.

Thanks to a lawyer whom I had became acquainted with during my lonely two-year, one-woman mission to reopen Zion from my home base in Lake Bluff, along with the valuable input from David Hollein, a Barrington Hills resident who as project engineer for Westinghouse Corporation (designer of the steam turbines) was intimately familiar with all 11 of Illinois’s nuclear units, we continued to fight.

It is important for electric rate payers here in northern Illinois to know that between approximately 1998 and 2006 customers of ComEd paid hundreds of millions of dollars into two trust funds established by law relating to the decommissioning of the Zion Nuclear Power Plant. The balance in the Trust Funds turned over to ZionSolutions by Exelon Corporation on Sept. 1 of last year is in excess of $800 million.

All monies left over (the unspent balance) after ZionSolutions funded the necessary and reasonable decommissioning costs associated with its 10-year Zion Station decommissioning project, as applicable under law, was to be returned or credited to ComEd’s customers.

Since Sept. 1 of last year ZionSolutions has withdrawn millions of dollars from the Trust Funds, purportedly for claimed costs for planning the decommissioning of The Zion Station.

On July 14 of this year, I became one of four plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against ZionSolution LLC and the Bank of New York Mellon, a New York Chartered Bank, which was chosen to act as custodian of the Trust Funds.

The lawsuit concentrates on the fact that no qualified person or entity has been appointed to act as a trustee with respect to the Trust Funds to fully protect the rights of ComEd’s customers as beneficiaries of the Trust Funds under applicable law.

Likewise, no court or independent trustee is reviewing the withdrawals from the Trust Funds to conclusively determine whether they meet all of the requirements for payment under the terms of the law establishing and governing the Trust Funds.

Furthermore, the Bank of New York Mellon has not expressly agreed to fulfill, nor has it fulfilled, all the duties of a trustee under the law establishing the Trust Funds, having made payments from the Trust Funds to ZionSolutions, pursuant to ZionSolutions’ direction, without requiring conclusive proof that such are necessary and reasonable decommissioning costs or that such payments are otherwise fully compliant with the law.

As one of four plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit, we are entitled to have a court appointed trustee of the Trust Funds who will accept and discharge the legal duties to protect all beneficiaries, including ComEd rate payers here in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff; who will withhold payment from the Trust Funds unless and until it is shown such payments are necessary and reasonable decommissioning cost; and who will manage and disburse the Trust Funds in a manner that reasonably balances the interests of ComEd’s customers in the Trusts.

Although the law suit is at least a year away from receiving a Court hearing, I felt it essential to inform Lake Forester readers about the activity taking place.

Aren’t you, as a ComEd electricity rate payer, entitled to a piece of the pie, having initially funded the Trust Funds to dismantle the Dual Zion Nuclear Plant through payments of your monthly ComEd electric bill




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