WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Nuclear Energy Institute and several of its member companies filed suit in federal court today seeking suspension of the fee that consumers of electricity produced at nuclear energy facilities pay into the Nuclear Waste Fund for the federal government’s used nuclear fuel management activities.
NEI is joined in the litigation by 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. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The lawsuit calls on the court to direct the Department of Energy to suspend collection of the one-tenth of a cent per kilowatt-hour surcharge that consumers pay on their monthly electric bills pending DOE’s compliance with provisions of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. The legislation requires DOE to conduct an annual “fee adequacy review” for the used fuel management program.
NEI argued in a letter sent to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu last July that DOE has failed to properly account for the effect of the planned termination of the Yucca Mountain repository project on the program’s financial needs, and that collection of the fee should be suspended until a used nuclear fuel management program is defined and properly evaluated. Chu declined to suspend the fee, which amounts to approximately $750 million in annual revenues for the fund, in a letter sent to NEI last October.
The Nuclear Waste Fund has a balance of more than $24 billion; however the administration’s budget request for fiscal year 2011 does not include any funding for the used nuclear fuel management program.
Under law, electric companies that operate America’s 104 reactors have contracts with the Department of Energy for used reactor fuel management. Under the terms of the contracts, DOE was to begin moving used reactor fuel from nuclear energy facilities beginning in 1998.
Uranium fuel assemblies containing thousands of fuel pellets about the size of a pencil eraser are used in the reactor core for five to six years before removal to vaults for cooling and storage.