Nursing my Calistoga, I watched the bartender make a martini. The guy next to me yelled into his cell phone about losing $400,000 in the stock market that day. The bartender confided that his customers switched from white wine to martinis in the last few months. Numbing oneself to personal financial losses is understandable. As markets do come and go, there\u2019s a market loss in California that no amount of happy juice can cure. I fear it will last for more than a few generations--for hundreds of thousands of years. The funds are not some cell phone guy\u2019s personal problem. I don\u2019t care if he can\u2019t keep his yacht. I do care about our public health and safety. The losses I\u2019m talking about are huge and incredibly toxic--not only in the investment way, but in the killing our neighbors way. Ratepayer funds have been invested in the stock market to prepare for decommissioning (final burial) of the state\u2019s nuclear plants since the 1980s. The theory is that between direct payments from customers, and conservative investments of those ratepayer funds, there will be enough money to dismantle reactors, dispose of spent fuel (plutonium), and protect their inherent radioactivity from escaping and poisoning the public, as well as rendering land unusable. We don\u2019t want a California Chernobyl. Utilities hire outside trustees to invest those funds. At first, the California Public Utilities Commission limited investments to bonds. When the economy hit the Internet bubble, regulators expanded investments to include stocks. You know where this story is going. Insiders believe that the funds have lost about one-third of their value in the last six months. Outside trustees of the multi-billion dollar accounts--although publicly responsible--did not return requests for information. Utilities are set to file the decommissioning financials with federal regulators next month. Southern California Edison, however, did reveal that it had $2.85 billion as of September 2008--not too far away from the $3.1 billion expected to be needed for its San Onofre nuclear units 2 and 3 decommissioning. That\u2019s not too bad, but it\u2019s also not current, and who knows what happened to the public\u2019s investments in the last four months. For instance, one bank trusted with ratepayer funds for investing in the long-term health of nuclear power plants, Bank of New York\/Mellon, was implicated in the Madoff Ponzi scheme. (Bernard Madoff allegedly took from new investors to pay off old investors in an apparent loss of $50 billion.) Another firm hired to invest ratepayer- funded decommissioning money is UBS. The Swiss bank is severely cutting back its investment division due to losses, reportedly over $17 billion in the last year. How much of that lost money consists of decommissioning funds was not revealed by nuclear plant owners, nor their public trustees. Two years ago, in the last triennial decommissioning hearing at the CPUC, it was estimated that San Onofre units 2 and 3 would need $3.1 billion to decommission, SONGS unit 1 would cost $620 million, the two units at Diablo Canyon would need $1.6 billion to bury, and the single unit at Humboldt Bay (shut down in 1976) would cost $370 million. Let\u2019s start with the money: -The estimate for Diablo Canyon is too low. In a per MW analysis, Humboldt Bay is $5 million\/MW, SONGS unit 1, $1 million\/MW, SONGS units 2 and 3, $1.4 million\/MW, and Diablo Canyon $700,000\/MW, according to documents in the last triennial decommissioning case. So, if the state is only collecting on the $1.6 billion estimate instead of two or three times that amount, it is probably dooming next generations to either come up with the money or live with radioactivity where it stands. The numbers between reactors are incongruous at best. -There is less decommissioning money being collected in general. There\u2019s less electricity being consumed these days and it rolls into less decommissioning funds collected. Check your utility bill. There\u2019s a line item for pennies that are sent to the decommissioning funds. The less used, the less collected for clean up. -Assume the decommissioning market investments lost about one-third of their value (neither utilities, nor regulators would confirm or deny this, but it\u2019s a general assumption in the last part of 2008). The state cannot pay for decommissioning even if it got the original estimates correct. Nuclear burial isn\u2019t a pine casket, it\u2019s not even bones in the dirt. It\u2019s is a dangerous process at best. Without funding, it\u2019s simply not going to happen. The public will be subjected to radioactive releases in the event of an earthquake or simple physical degradation. -Contingency fees were dampened in the last decommissioning proceeding. Environmentalists asked for a 40 percent contingency--that is, if all goes to hell in a dry casket, then the state would have over-collected enough from ratepayers to manage the inconsistency. The inconsistency could be the market investments, the lack of a permanent waste storage facility, earthquakes, or terrorist attacks. The last regulatory decision adopted a 25 percent to 35 percent contingency factor. -The CPUC punted two years ago at its last decommissioning decision, leaving the issues to be taken up this year. The financial world was going well then. The state delayed difficult issues--which may have insulated the funds--until this year\u2019s market meltdown. Regulators basically said, yes there are a lot of problems we should address, but we\u2019ll do it later. Decommissioning funds are presumably decreasing. The high-level radioactive spent fuel certainly increases at the state\u2019s operating nuclear power plants. The state needs a plan. In the short term, California\u2019s mired in its budget problems. I understand that health care and education take priority at the moment. But, decommissioning the state\u2019s nukes is a life and death matter for generations. Our children will have their hands full with global warming. We can at least put together a trust fund to help them bury our dead reactors. Our generation can take care of this trust fund for pennies a month. Pass me an olive.