Court rules on Nuclear Waste Fund payments

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on June 1, 2012, ruled that the Department of Energy (DOE) failed to justify continued payments by consumers of electricity from nuclear power plants into the Nuclear Waste Fund, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Since 1982, consumers have paid more than $30 billion into the fund. The court ordered DOE to conduct a complete reassessment of this fee within six months. While the court did not order DOE to suspend the fee payments, the court rejected DOE's bases for continuing to collect the fees.

"The court is unequivocal in finding DOE's interpretation of its legal obligation 'unacceptable' and rejecting DOE's use of Yucca Mountain costs as a 'proxy' when the agency terminated the program. The industry's priority continues to be realization of a fully functioning used fuel management program at DOE," said The Nuclear Energy Institute's Ellen Ginsberg, vice president, general counsel and secretary. "The industry is pleased that the court retained jurisdiction over this matter, and further, ruled that it has authority to direct the Secretary of Energy to suspend collection of the fee."

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) called the court decision an "important victory."

"The court made clear that the Energy Department has not justified continued payments into the Nuclear Waste Fund,” said NARUC President David Wright. “Today’s decision will force the Energy Department to do its job and prove why it should continue fees for a nuclear-waste program that it says no longer exists. We believe the evidence demonstrates that until and unless a new nuclear-waste policy is developed, consumers should be given a break."

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