Utilities contend that the DOE has collected over $33 billion since 1983, never came for nuclear waste and has no federal waste management plan
- By Stephen Heiser -
The Nuclear Energy Institute and over a dozen utilities companies have filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to stop paying fees on spent fuel that the government was supposed to collect decades ago. The utilities argue that the DOE shouldn’t be collecting the fee at a time when the federal Nuclear Waste Fund has a balance of over $33 billion and there is no real federal waste management plan.
The suit comes on the heels of a victory by Energy Northwest over the same issue. Last month a federal court awarded Energy Northwest Nearly $56.9 Million for spent nuclear fuel storage. Since 1983 ratepayers have placed more than $33 billion into the Nuclear Waste Fund and Energy Northwest represents one of more than 60 such cases filed by nuclear utilities
A 2006 judgment by the court already determined that the Energy Department was in breach of contract with Energy Northwest for the department’s failure to begin accepting used nuclear fuel from the nuclear utility industry in January, 1998. That is the date when a national repository was to be made available to receive used fuel from more than 100 U.S. nuclear energy facilities, per DOE’s 1983 “Standard Contract” with utilities.
Energy Northwest filed its lawsuit in January 2004 and sought $56,859,345 in damages at trial. The case was tried in Washington D.C. between Feb. 2 and Feb. 20, 2009.
The Obama administration has abandoned plans for the Yucca Mountain waste site, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu has created a “blue ribbon” commission to help create a new long-term waste policy.
This week's legal action follows a lawsuit filed last week by state utility regulators – under the banner of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), that also seeks to suspend the fee.
"Since 1983, the nation’s nuclear-utility consumers have faithfully contributed almost $20 billion into the Nuclear Waste Fund, with the expectation that the spent-nuclear fuel would be safely moved and stored,” said NARUC President David Coen of Vermont in a prepared statement Friday. “Unfortunately, the federal government has failed to live up to its end of the bargain.”
Under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, DoE was supposed to begin taking spent fuel from utilities for disposal in a repository by 1998 at the latest, but the government never came for the waste.
“We are hopeful that the newly appointed Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future will chart a workable path. But until that time, there is no need to assess these fees on our consumers, particularly when we have no idea what solutions the Commission will suggest, and whether they will be implemented,” Coen added.
DOE last year rejected requests from the industry and state PUCs to stop the fees on power companies, one-tenth of a cent per kilowatt-hour monthly. Those fees are passed along to utility ratepayers.
Other utilities joining the lawsuit that NEI filed include:
Florida Power & Light Co.; NextEra Energy Seabrook, LLC; NextEra Energy Duane Arnold, LLC; NextEra Energy Point Beach, LLC; Omaha Public Power District; PSEG Nuclear, LLC; Indiana Michigan Power Co.; Energy Northwest; PPL Susquehanna, LLC; The Detroit Edison Co.; Nebraska Public Power District; Northern States Power Co.; Kansas Gas and Electric Co.; Kansas City Power & Light Co.; Kansas Electric Power Cooperative, Inc.; and Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corp.
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