Thursday, November 21, 2013

Court Ends Nuclear Plant Fees For Waste

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that nuclear power plants no longer have to pay $750 million a year in fees to the federal government to cover the long-term cost of storing their nuclear fuel.

That's good news for nuclear power plants, including a couple in Upstate New York that are struggling financially.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia ruled that it was unfair for the Department of Energy to collect money for waste disposal when the department had no idea how much that might cost.
"Until the Department (of Energy) comes to some conclusion as to how nuclear wastes are to be deposited permanently, it seems quite unfair to force petitioners to pay fees for a hypothetical option,'' the court ruled."
The existing fee is one-tenth of a cent per kilowatt-hour. At that rate, it appears that the court ruling would save the FitzPatrick nuclear plant in Oswego County about $6 million a year, based on the plant's output for 2012.

FitzPatrick, which is owned by Entergy Corp., is one of a handful of nuclear plants that industry experts say is struggling to make money at a time when cheap natural gas is depressing wholesale electricity prices.

Norris McDonald at James Fitzpatrick Nuclear Power Plant
Dry Cask Spent Fuel Storage at James Fitzpatrick

Entergy officials released a short prepared statement today in response to the court ruling: "We are pleased with the court's decision and agree that, until the Department of Energy restarts its waste disposal program, the Nuclear Waste Fund fee our customers pay should be suspended."

The Ginna plant in Wayne County, another nuke thought to be at financial risk, could potentially save about $4.6 million based on its 2012 output.

Ginna Nuclear Power Plant

Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station in Oswego County, which is stronger financially because it has two reactors, could save an estimated $13.2 million based on its 2012 output. Ginna and Nine Mile Point are owned by Constellation Energy Nuclear Group, a division of Exelon Corp.

The Department of Energy said it is reviewing the court's opinion.  (Syracuse Post Standard, 11/20/2103)

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