I\u2019m locked in the reactor at the Humboldt Bay nuclear plant. \tI\u2019m the janitor. Outside the reactor in the vertically positioned submarine-type vessel sits an 80-year-old security guard with a gun making sure I don\u2019t escape. My job is to clean up\u2014to decommission\u2014the old power plant. \tI get out the mop. \tSoon it becomes clear that everything I mop gets covered with water that\u2019s radioactive. Everything I\u2019ve swished from the mop to clean up gets contaminated. Everything I touch is fouled by deadly radionuclides. \tI\u2019m the anti-Midas. Instead of everything I touch turning to gold, it turns radioactive. \tThe janitor part may be my nightmare, but the rest is real. My only pang of artistic conscience after being locked inside the nuke is that the spent fuel pool does not glow green. Darn. \tWhen cleaning up radioactivity, everything that is radioactive confers on to non-radioactive materials. That\u2019s why my \u201cclean-up woman\u201d has to wear a hazmat suit and booties. If she doesn\u2019t, she will become radioactive, along with all the \u201ccleaning\u201d materials. In addition, because the place is radioactively \u201chot\u201d the janitor(s) can only spend a minute or three cleaning up\u2014any more than that and the cleanup crew absorbs the radionuclides into their bodies. \tThat\u2019s why decommissioning nuclear power plants is so expensive, and so tricky. \tThe 65 MW Humboldt plant isn\u2019t even close to being cleaned up and buried although it has been shut down for nearly four decades. \tThis year, its owner, Pacific Gas & Electric filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission its plans to spend a total of $888.9 million to attempt to \u201cclean\u201d up the area. \tUnfortunately the utility is $474.4 million short of that goal. The utility\u2019s also got a plan pending before the California Public Utilities Commission to charge ratepayers for the difference between the collected and expected costs of decontamination (Current, May 24, 2013). \tJust what those numbers are varies. Suffice it to say that the amount in the fund is nowhere near what is now considered the cost of decommissioning the nuclear plant. \tRenewed public interest in nuclear power\u2019s effect on the environment and ratebase due to the 1.5-year San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station outage abounds. \tA corresponding interest in the actual finality of nuclear plants is next. \tHardly anyone remembers the Humboldt Bay nuke, even if it\u2019s still radioactive and still sitting next to three earthquake faults. PG&E erased the outward signs long ago\u2014the red and gray tower and the welcoming sign. \tThe site now hosts 163 MW of 2010-vintage fossil-fueled generators, as well as the shut down nuke. \tBack in 1976, Humboldt ceased operations because its owner plunked it down in a seismically skewed \u2018hood\u2014300 feet from the nearest earthquake fault. Not gangbanging; tectonic plate bangin\u2019. \tAt that time, the financial incentives allowed utilities to make considerable money on large nuclear capital investments. They could build a measly 100 MW fossil plant for a few million dollars and receive a 7 percent return. Or, they drop billions of dollars on a nuclear plant and get the same 7 percent. \tThat had investor-owned utilities lining up to plant more nuclear facilities along the coast. They could get a $15 million rate of return on fossil or $150 million on nuclear. It was an investors\u2019 no-brainer. \tFirst-time Gov. Jerry Brown helped create the California Energy Commission whose unofficial job was to stop that sort of nuclear proliferation. Diablo Canyon and San Onofre were too far along to be stopped, but new nuclear evaporated during his first term. \tAt the same time, San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station unit 1 and Humboldt Bay were marching to funerals because they no longer produced power. \tWith investor confidence and a push from federal regulators, California utilities brought in the then-new plants\u2014Diablo Canyon and San Onofre units 2 and 3. They looked forward to bright, productive lives. \tBut, with their predecessors\u2019 experience, they too, were curious about the state version of life insurance. You know, those commercials that enlist your monthly payments in order not to burden your family with funeral expenses. \tThe life insurance resulted in the California Public Utilities Commission requiring a line item on monthly bills to cover the eventual nuke burial. The funds were and are invested by entities other than nuclear-owning utilities. Basically, now it\u2019s Wall Street institutions that invest nuclear decommissioning funds. \tAt first, the investment of those funds was limited to the most conservative investments. In the last 30 years, the commission\u2019s loosened the parameters, allowing more financial risk. \tThe funds have grown. \tStill, the discrepancy in the Humboldt decommissioning fund leads to other questions. If San Onofre is destined to the glowing cemetery in the\u2014I want to say \u201csky\u201d but it won\u2019t be that unless we rocket the waste to another planet, and it won\u2019t be Yucca Mountain below ground because that option was cut off by the Department of Energy, so I don\u2019t know the destination of the nuclear cemetery at this time. \tCalifornia was the first to get creative with decommissioning funds. Federal regulators (the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) have a basic fund that\u2019s a small slice of what California\u2019s collected. A few states have their own decommissioning trusts like California. \tIf the Humboldt Bay fund is two-thirds short, then how short might the fund for San Onofre be if, indeed, the plant is deemed unfit for further service? \tAccording to San Onofre\u2019s primary owner, Southern California Edison, there\u2019s about $4.2 billion in the decommissioning trust fund for the plant as of April. San Diego Gas & Electric\u2019s ratepayers also kick in for their 20 percent ownership. \tIf Humboldt Bay is any indication, that burial price could escalate by billions of dollars. \tThat\u2019s where the Midas Touch in Reverse comes into play. \tRadioactivity is messy indeed. Once spread around, it takes an estimated 140,000 years for the most potent power plant radionuclide to calm down to the point of exhaustion and detox. \tTaking Humboldt Bay as the initial experiment, we\u2019re only beginning to realize how monumental a task the state\u2019s janitorial services may become. \tWith Humboldt Bay pending and San Onofre looking terribly long in the tooth, regulators\u2014both at the California Public Utilities Commission and California Energy Commission (politicians, too, as a safety issue) should immediately investigate decommissioning trusts for their capabilities to render reactors and their associated radioactive waste as safe as possible.