Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Delay In Nuclear Waste Repository To Cost DOE Billions

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington ruled (1/12/10) that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) cannot argue that delays in collecting spent fuel from the nation’s nuclear power plants were unavoidable as the government defends against multibillion- dollar claims by utility companies. The case is Nebraska Public Power District v. U.S., 2007- 5083, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Washington.

Utilities are seeking to recover billions of dollars they have spent over the last two decades on storing spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste while waiting for the government to construct a permanent storage facility. The utilities were obligated by Congress under the Nuclear Waste Management Act of 1982 to collect spent nuclear fuel on site while a permanent storage facility they would help fund was built at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The utility companies paid more than $27 billion into the fund over the years, though the storage facility was never built.

President Barack Obama cancelled funding for developing Yucca Mountain, rejecting the $58 billion project after 20 years of planning. The decision left unresolved what to do with more than 70,000 tons of nuclear waste now held at 122 temporary sites in 39 states. Exelon Corporation, the biggest U.S. operator of nuclear power plants, settled its dispute with the federal government in 2004, saying it would be paid as much as $300 million through 2010 for the cost of storing spent nuclear fuel.

The Center disagrees with President Obama's decision to shutter Yucca Mountain. In fact, the Center is a member of the Nuclear Fuels Reprocessing Coalition (NFRC), which is promoting legislation to take the nuclear waste function out of DOE and place those functions in a new stand alone agency called the Nuclear Waste Management Agency.

(, 1/12/10)

(photo: Center President Norris McDonald at Yucca Mountain exit opening, 2003)

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