Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Dollars and the Nuclear Waste Fund

The Nuclear Waste Fund was established in 1982 when Congress passed legislation that those who use electricity supplied by nuclear energy would pay for the used nuclear fuel disposal program. For every kilowatt-hour used, consumers of nuclear generated electricity contribute one-tenth of a cent into the waste fund -- about $750 million per year. For Fiscal Year 2005 Congress appropriated far less than that, allocating $572 million to the program. In previous years the program has received an average of $194 million annually.

As of March 31, 2005, the total revenue paid into the Nuclear Waste Fund amounted to $24.9 billion. Of that amount, only $8.9 billion has been spent on program costs, leaving a balance of $16.02 billion that has been collected, but not applied to the used nuclear fuel disposal program.

So what should Congress be doing with all that other money? Last month at the 2005 Nuclear Energy Assembly, NEI President and CEO Skip Bowman said:

We must ensure a dedicated, available funding program for the Yucca Mountain repository and other components of the integrated federal program.

The Congressional intent for establishing the fund was to use it to support the Yucca Mountain project. That'’s what consumers deserve. It's what we should do.
Illinois, the state that relies most heavily on nuclear generation for electricity, has contributed more to the fund than any other state: $3.1 billion. Next is Pennsylvania at $2.1 billion, followed by South Carolina at $1.7 billion. In all, 34 states contribute to the fund, averaging total contributions of $747 million each.

Originally, the fund began was a separate account in the federal treasury -- sort of like a "lock box". However, back in 1987, Congress amended the law so that the Fund is dependent on capping appropriations.

According to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, the Department of Energy was supposed to open a nuclear waste repository by 1998. That date got pushed back to 2010. More recently, the estimated time frame for opening the facility stands at 2012.

For more information go on used nuclear fuel management, click here.

EDITOR'S UPDATE: For more on the topic of used nuclear fuel and Yucca Mountain, click here for a story from the Los Angeles Times.

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1 comment:

Matthew66 said...

Unfortunately, the contributions made by electricity consumers are effectively a tax. The "Nuclear Waste Fund" "invests" all contributions in US government debt securities. Effectively it is a means of improving the US government's cash flow position whilst maintaining the pretence of having a used fuel management strategy. If Congress were serious about managing used nuclear fuel, it would have offered serious incentives to a state or local community willing to host the used fuel storage facility, as the Korean government has done. It would also ensure that there are sufficient funds available for managing used fuel. The money involved is more than enough to establish a reprocessing plant to enable recycling of uranium and plutonium into the fuel cycle and immobilizing the unusable fission products in glasss or ceramic, thereby reducing waste volume by 97% and reducing the storage period required to about 500 years.