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DOE loses spent-fuel lawsuit

October 16, 2006 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 84, Issue 42

Owners of three New England nuclear power plants were awarded $142.8 million in damages by a federal court to cover the costs of the Department of Energy's failure to take control of the radioactive spent nuclear fuel stored in pools at the plant sites. The nuclear power plants are in Connecticut, Maine, and Massachusetts and have been closed for several years. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims had previously determined that DOE had broken contracts to remove the spent fuel from the sites that it made under the terms of the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act, which required DOE to complete a nuclear waste repository by 1998. The proposed national nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, in Nevada, is delayed and the earliest possible opening date is now 2017. More than 60 similar lawsuits have been filed by other utilities, and the nuclear power industry estimates that claims could reach $50 billion. Fear of such claims is driving several efforts to build a federal interim waste storage facility in the face of a long-stalled permanent repository as well as industry demands for new nuclear plant construction (C&EN, Sept. 25, page 81). The government has 60 days to appeal the ruling.


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