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Full appeals court upholds suspension of nuclear waste fee

From the March 20, 2014 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published March 20, 2014

By Robert Varela
Editorial Director
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied the Department of Energy's request that the entire court review a decision by a three-judge panel suspending collection of the nuclear waste fund fee that customers have been paying for years on electricity generated by nuclear power plants. In the November 2013 ruling in National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners v. U.S. Department of Energy, the three-judge panel ordered DOE "to submit to Congress a proposal to change the fee to zero until such a time as either the secretary chooses to comply with the [Nuclear Waste Policy Act] as it is currently written, or until Congress enacts an alternative waste management fee." (See Public Power Weekly, Nov. 25, 2013)

DOE has already submitted to Congress the proposal to adjust the fee to zero, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) said. If Congress does not act within the 90-day period during which the proposal is pending before it, the fee will be reset to zero. Once the Yucca Mountain, Nev., repository program is restarted or Congress enacts an alternative, DOE will be able to determine whether additional funds will be required, NEI said.

While on-site storage is safe, "the industry is extremely eager for the government to meet its legal obligation to dispose of used nuclear fuel," NEI said.

"Once again, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has sent another strong signal to the federal government: Stop charging consumers of nuclear power for the stalled Yucca Mountain, Nev., nuclear-waste repository program," said NARUC President Colette Honorable. "While the debate over the proposed repository at Yucca Mountain will continue, consumers should not be forced to pay for a program that is, at best, in hiatus."


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