DOE denied review of Nuclear Waste Fund decision

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A federal appeals court denied a request from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for the original panel and full court to review a decision on nuclear waste fee collection.

The D.C. Circuit Court ruled in November 2013 that DOE could not collect the one-tenth of a cent per kilowatt-hour surcharge to pay for used nuclear fuel management. The circuit judge said DOE did not come up with a court-ordered assessment to determine if the current fee is appropriate since talks over a waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada ended, and there is no alternative in place. The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) said in the original lawsuit that the termination of the repository did not allow DOE to determine if an appropriate fee was being collected. DOE was ordered to file with Congress to zero out the fee collection. The DOE then filed an appeal for the original panel and the entire court to review that decision, which the appeals court denied.

“Today’s decision rejecting DOE’s efforts to reopen its fight to collect fees for a program that the department unilaterally terminated is both appropriate and timely,” said NEI’s Vice President and General Counsel Ellen Ginsberg. “DOE has already submitted to Congress the required proposal to adjust the fee to zero. 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, relieving consumers of nuclear-generated electricity of the burden of paying for a program that DOE illegally terminated.”

NARUC President Colette D. Honorable of Arkansas said the decision is a “big win” for nuclear power consumers.

“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,” Honorable said. “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. We stand ready to work with Congress and the federal government so we can restart this vital program.”

NEI said the Nuclear Waste Fund currently has $34 billion remaining and annual interest income is accruing at the rate of about $1.3 billion.

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