Appeals Court Halts Nuclear Waste Storage Fees

As long as the federal government has no viable alternative to Yucca Mountain for storing nuclear waste, power plant operators should not be charged annual fees for the cost of that disposal, the judges ruled.

An appeals court ruling Nov. 19 is a victory for nuclear power plant operators, backing their position that the annual fees collected by the U.S. Department of Energy for storing nuclear wastes at Yucca Mountain are unreasonable. As long as the federal government has no viable alternative to Yucca Mountain for storing nuclear waste, power plant operators should not be charged annual fees for the cost of that disposal, three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously ruled in National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners v. U.S. Department of Energy, No. 11-1066.

The opinion dismisses the government's position entirely. The court previously had ordered DOE to determine the adequacy of the fee paid by plant operators, and the agency still did not determine that, the judges -- Judge Janice Rogers Brown and Senior Judges Laurence H. Silberman and David B. Sentelle -- held, noting the fund accrues interest of $1.3 billion annually.

"According to the Secretary [of Energy], the final balance of the fund to be used to pay the costs of disposal could be somewhere between a $2 trillion deficit and a $4.9 trillion surplus. This range is so large as to be absolutely useless as an analytical technique to be employed to determine -- as the Secretary is obligated to do -- the adequacy of the annual fees paid by petitioners, which would appear to be its purpose," they wrote.

DOE is not currently intending to complete the Yucca Mountain storage complex, according to the decision, but the agency could complete the assessment if the project is revived or Congress enacts a different plan, and then payments could resume.

Download Center

  • Monitoring and Reporting on Air Emissions for Regulators and the Real World

    When it comes to managing compliance and regulatory issues surrounding air emissions, there are no easy jobs. With interviews from practitioners from American Electric Power, Red Cedar Gathering, Trinity Consultants, and Cority, this eBook provides practical advice to advance your air emissions monitoring and reporting programs.

  • What Every EHS Professional Should Know About ESG

    Join experts from Arcadis and Cority on April 27th to learn the most common ESG reporting frameworks and how technology can help you improve reporting efficiency, identify areas for improvement, and create defensible audit trails.

  • Green Quadrant EHS Software 2021

    Read the new report by independent analyst firm, Verdantix, to get an unbiased comparison of the 22 most prominent EHS software vendors in the industry.

  • RFP Template for Waste Management Software

    Learn the essential questions to ask when evaluating waste management software solutions with this free, ready-to-use RFP template

  • 5 Keys to Best-in-Class Chemical Management

    Running a safe chemical program is challenging and complex: from knowing what's on-site to proper handling and disposal - all while navigating regulatory changes. Learn the best ways to mitigate chemical risk, get the most value out of your data, and gain buy-in for a chemical management solution.

Featured Webinar