Yucca Mountain ruling

8 March 2010-- The U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled March 5 to award Energy Northwest nearly $56.9 million in damages from the Department of Energy (DOE) for breach of contract involving the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository project.

Energy Northwest filed the lawsuit in 2004 seeking more than $56 million in damages. The court determined in 2006 that the DOE was in breach of contract with the company for not accepting used nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants in 1998 when a national repository was supposed to be available per DOE's "Standard Contract" with nuclear power plants.

As part of the contract, ratepayers receiving nuclear energy must pay a per-kilowatt-hour fee to DOE for the construction and operation of a national nuclear waste repository, which includes costs to transport used nuclear fuel. Since 1983, ratepayers have paid more than $33 billion into the Nuclear Waste Fund, of which more than $22 billion remains. Energy Northwest ratepayers have reportedly paid $290 million into the fund since the Columbia Generating Station began commercial operation in 1984.

The ruling will offset the company's project cost for the construction of a used fuel storage area at Columbia.

DOE has 60 days from the ruling date to file an appeal. Energy Northwest represents one of 60 such cases filed by nuclear utilities.

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