Maine Yankee wins award from feds

Posted Wednesday, May 23, 2012 in News

Maine Yankee wins award from feds

These casks hold the 1400 spent nuclear rods on 12 acres of the Maine Yankee site.

WISCASSET -- The U.S. Court of Appeals on Friday affirmed an earlier court decision requiring the federal government to pay $81.69 million in damages to the Maine Yankee Atomic Power Co. for the U.S. Department of Energy’s failure to remove high-level radioactive waste from the decommissioned nuclear reactor site on Bailey Point.

The court also granted relief to two other decommissioned nuclear plants in New England, Connecticut Yankee and Yankee Atomic Electric in Massachusetts.  The ruling was unanimous. A total of $160 was granted to the three plants.

In the last 20 years, there have been several rulings in favor of power companies, who had alleged that the federal government was in breach of contracts it had entered into with the companies to remove spent nuclear fuel under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.  The contracts required that the government would remove all the high-level nuclear waste by 1998 to a permanent storage facility.

For many years, it was thought that Yucca Mountain in Nevada would be that site, but local opposition as well as congressional opposition initially slowed the plan.  Later, unknown earthquake faults were discovered near and under the site which would have rendered the site unacceptable.

In 2006, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims awarded the three New England plants $143 million, but the federal government appealed, and the initial ruling was overturned in 2008.

But in 2010 the U.S. Court of Federal Claims issued another favorable decision, again awarding the three Yankee companies $143 million. The federal government appealed again.  This time, the ruling was upheld.

The federal government may appeal again.

Currently, the high-level nuclear waste, which consists of 1400 spent fuel rods, is stored in 60 airtight canisters in concrete on 12 acres of the Maine Yankee site.  Round the clock security is required to maintain the casks security.  Another four casks containing irradiated steel were removed from the site during the decommissioning in 2005.  The cost to provide security and maintain the waste securely is approximately $8 million per year.

The Yankee plants have another lawsuit on the same legal grounds pending, seeking $264 million in damages, for the costs of storing and securing nuclear waste on site.  A decision in that case could be rendered this year.

It is unclear how, or if, the funds that will be received will benefit ratepayers.

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