If the government has decided that Yucca Mountain is no longer a plausible storage facility for used nuclear fuel, then should you – and we mean you specifically - continue to pay into the Nuclear Waste Fund when there is no solution in place?
The Nuclear Energy Institute and several of its member companies filed suit in federal court [Monday] seeking suspension of the fee that consumers of electricity produced at nuclear energy facilities pay into the Nuclear Waste Fund for the federal government’s used nuclear fuel management activities.
The best way to put this is that government lacks a “used nuclear fuel management policy” and thus cannot put on a price on it which you, though your utilities, then have to pay. After all, there’s plenty of money already in the fund.
The Nuclear Waste Fund has a balance of more than $24 billion; however the administration’s budget request for fiscal year 2011 does not include any funding for the used nuclear fuel management program.
Or about $750 million a year - a lot of money. Suspending the fee hardly seems unreasonable until the industry knows how the government means to proceed.
The fund was created as part of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, which specified that the government would take charge of used nuclear fuel by 1998 – which it didn’t do and still hasn’t done. Before being closed, the Yucca Mountain project was delayed by various legal actions taken by the state of Nevada and other parties. Although most such actions were knocked aside, that took time to do and deadlines fell aside in the meantime.
NEI has been joined in this action by 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.
And this isn’t the only action spurred by Yucca Mountain’s closure.
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 [the rest of the $24 billion comes from interest], 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.”
All true. We’re not lawyers, so cannot comment much beyond presenting the information to you, but we’ll keep an eye on both the NEI and NARUC lawsuits to see where they lead.