DOE stops collecting nuclear waste fee

The Department of Energy Friday stopped collecting a small fee on nuclear energy customers’ bills that was supposed to pay for a nuclear waste site that was never built.

The fee amounted to 0.1 cent per kilowatt-hour of electricity, but it added up to about $750 million a year, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said in a November ruling. It ordered the DOE to stop collecting the fee, and the agency agreed to do so Friday.

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The DOE started collecting the fee after a 1982 law that authorized a federal nuclear waste repository. Congress eventually picked Yucca Mountain in Nevada for the repository, but construction stopped in 2010, when lawmakers cut funding amid opposition to the plan.

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Environment and Economy subcommittee, welcomed the end of the fee but urged the government to continue working to build a nuclear waste site.

“To get our nuclear future back on track, the secretary simply needs to carry out that obligation and restart Yucca Mountain,” Shimkus said in a statement. “Short of that, I am glad this annual theft of $750 million from electricity consumers has finally come to an end.”

The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) were the petitioners in last year’s court case.

“Consumers of clean, reliable nuclear energy benefited today because of NEI’s and NARUC’s successful efforts to enforce the Nuclear Waste Policy Act,” NEI CEO Marvin Fertel said in a statement.

“This is a big day and an even bigger win for consumers,” said Colette Honorable, president of NARUC. “While we hope Congress and the federal government can jumpstart our nation’s stalled nuclear-waste program, this action means consumers will get a break.”