DOE to Pay $48.7 Million for Used Nuclear Fuel
A federal court ruled last Friday to award Energy Northwest more than $48.7 million in damages for the construction and licensing of a used fuel storage area at Columbia Generating Station. The ruling came nearly five years after the court determined the U.S. Department of Energy was in breach of contract for its failure to accept the utility's used nuclear fuel.
"This is a huge victory for the region and the ratepayers of the Northwest," said Mark Reddemann, Energy Northwest CEO. "However, 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."
Though Energy Northwest and the nuclear energy industry continue to advocate completion and use of a national repository, Columbia's used fuel can continue to be safely and securely kept for decades at the plant in its used fuel pool and above-ground dry storage area.
According to court documents, Energy Northwest represents one of more than 60 such cases filed by nuclear utilities.
Energy Northwest initially filed its lawsuit in January 2004 and sought $56,859,345 in damages at trial. A 2006 ruling by the court determined that DOE 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 by DOE to receive used fuel from more than 100 U.S. nuclear energy facilities.
The case was tried in Washington D.C. between Feb. 2 and Feb. 20, 2009. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims awarded Energy Northwest full damages in February 2010. The Department of Energy appealed a portion of the claim.
On April 7, 2011, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that Energy Northwest was rightfully granted $2.9 million in overhead costs but the federal government was not required to pay $6 million in interest charges. The Appeals Court remanded the issue on payment for plant modifications for further hearing. Energy Northwest, without waiving its rights on the merits of the claim, made the business decision to forego further trial on the plant modifications portion of the claim in order to expedite payment of the judgment.
Nuclear Plants Deserve Their Repayment by DOE by Editorial Board, Nuclear Street, 7/22/11
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