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Washington Utility Awarded $48.7 Million in Spent Fuel Damages

by Elaine Hiruo
Platts, July 18, 2011

Hanford city site on Columbia River (by Emmet Gowin: Changing the Earth) The US Court of Federal Claims has awarded Energy Northwest more than $48.7 million in damages, allowing the utility to recoup some costs associated with the construction and licensing of a spent fuel dry storage facility at the Columbia nuclear power plant in Washington, Energy Northwest made public on Friday.

The July 8 ruling came roughly five years after the court said the US Department of Energy breached spent fuel disposal contracts it has with nuclear utilities when it failed to begin disposing of utility spent fuel by the 1998 contract date.

Columbia needed additional storage space for spent fuel and began storing irradiated fuel in casks in 2001, Energy Northwest spokesman John Dobken said Monday. It now has 27 storage casks at the site, he said.

Energy Northwest CEO Mark Reddemann called the court ruling a "huge victory for the region and the ratepayers," but added Friday in a statement that "this judgment does not resolve the issue of long-term storage of used nuclear fuel, nor does it lessen the legal obligation of the federal government to develop and manage that process."

Energy Northwest's damage claim was one of more than 60 such cases nuclear utilities filed against the federal government after DOE failed to begin disposing of spent fuel by the contract date. Energy Northwest's initial lawsuit, which it filed in 2004, sought more than $56.8 million in damages. The court awarded Energy Northwest full damages in 2010, which the federal government appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

In April, the appeals court ruled that the federal government was not required to pay the $6 million in interest charges included in the original award. The court also remanded to federal claims court the issue of payment for plant modifications.

But Energy Northwest said Friday it decided to forgo the plant modification portion of the claim to expedite payment of the judgment.

Damages are paid out of the taxpayer-funded federal judgment fund that the US Department of Treasury administers.

The federal government will not appeal the court's decision, US Department of Justice spokesman Charles Miller said Monday.

Related Pages:
Nuclear Plants Deserve Their Repayment by DOE by Editorial Board, Platts, 7/22/11

Elaine Hiruo
Washington Utility Awarded $48.7 Million in Spent Fuel Damages
Platts, July 18, 2011

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