Utilities sue Energy Department to stop nuclear waste management fees

The companies filed the lawsuit to force the suspension of a fee that utility customers pay for federal management of nuclear waste.

The Nuclear Energy Institute and over a dozen of its member utilities argue DoE shouldn’t be collecting the fee at a time when the federal Nuclear Waste Fund has a balance of $24 billion and federal waste management plans remain in flux.

They filed suit Monday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The Obama administration has abandoned plans for the long-delayed Yucca Mountain waste site, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu has created a “blue ribbon” commission to help create a new long-term waste policy.

Monday’s action follows a lawsuit filed last week by state utility regulators – under the banner of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners – that also seeks to suspend the fee.

"Since 1983, the nation’s nuclear-utility consumers have faithfully contributed almost $20 billion into the Nuclear Waste Fund, with the expectation that the spent-nuclear fuel would be safely moved and stored,” said NARUC President David Coen of Vermont in a prepared statement Friday. “Unfortunately, the federal government has failed to live up to its end of the bargain.”

Under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, DoE was supposed to begin taking spent fuel from utilities for disposal in a repository by 1998 at the latest, but that didn’t happen. The Yucca Mountain project faced a slew of delays and was eventually scrapped altogether.

“We are hopeful that the newly appointed Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future will chart a workable path. But until that time, there is no need to assess these fees on our consumers, particularly when we have no idea what solutions the Commission will suggest, and whether they will be implemented,” Coen added.

DoE last year rejected requests from the industry and state electricity regulators to suspend the payments. The fee on power companies, one-tenth of a cent per kilowatt-hour monthly, is passed along to utility consumers.

Here are the other utilities joining the lawsuit that NEI filed Monday:

Florida Power & Light Co.; NextEra Energy Seabrook, LLC; NextEra Energy Duane Arnold, LLC; NextEra Energy Point Beach, LLC; Omaha Public Power District; PSEG Nuclear, LLC; Indiana Michigan Power Co.; Energy Northwest; PPL Susquehanna, LLC; The Detroit Edison Co.; Nebraska Public Power District; Northern States Power Co.; Kansas Gas and Electric Co.; Kansas City Power & Light Co.; Kansas Electric Power Cooperative, Inc.; and Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corp.