WASHINGTON—Executives representing the electric utilities that own and operate the nation's commercial nuclear energy plants have told Energy Secretary Federico Peña that they are rejecting the Department of Energy's recent proposal to address contractual issues raised by the agency's failure to fulfill its obligation to begin moving used fuel from reactor sites.
In a June 2 letter endorsed by chief executives from utilities that own and operate U.S. nuclear power plants, the industry told Peña "the agency's proposal has significant shortcomings." The executives also voiced appreciation for Secretary Peña's efforts to compensate contract holders harmed by the Department of Energy's failure to begin disposing of used fuel.
"In the end," they stated, "the proposal would not be in the best interest of our companies and, more importantly, our customers, who have committed more than $14 billion to the U.S. Treasury for an integrated program to safely manage used nuclear fuel."
The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 established Jan. 31, 1998, as the deadline for the federal government to begin moving used fuel from the commercial nuclear power plants that supply nearly 20 percent of U.S. electricity needs. Although used fuel is amassing at 80 sites in 41 states—and many plants are exhausting their limited, on-site storage capacity—the Energy Department has not complied with its obligation and gives no indication as to when, or if, it will do so.
As an alternative, Peña in a May 18 meeting with a small group of industry representatives, and concurrently in a letter to utilities operating nuclear power plants, presented a proposal that, among other things, would permit utilities to escrow some fees that otherwise would go to the government for its nuclear waste management program, with the remainder paid to the government to cover program needs. As a condition of accepting the proposal, utilities would have to agree to not file claims or seek damages for delays resulting from the Energy Department's failure to meet the Jan. 31 deadline.
In the letter to Peña, industry executives stated that the administration's proposal "falls short of meeting its obligation in several key respects and simply perpetuates DOE's belief that performance, of any kind, under the contract is not required. Foremost, it provides no assurance that the department will meet its obligation to accept used nuclear fuel or when that acceptance would begin."
In their recent meeting with Peña, utility executives urged the Secretary to meet the agency's obligation and to support the Nuclear Waste Policy Act pending in Congress.
The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available on NEI’s Internet site at http://www.nei.org.