Entergy Says Feds Are 50 Years Behind on Nuclear Waste

WASHINGTON (CN) – Complaining that disposal of its nuclear waste is 50 years behind schedule, Entergy Arkansas sued the U.S. government for breach of a $370 million contract.

Entergy acquired the Russellville power plant at issue from the now-defunct Arkansas Power & Light Co. It says the plant owner’s agent, System Fuels Inc., entered into a contract back in 1983 to have remove and dispose of spent nuclear fuel from the facility.

Congress had passed the standards for nuclear-waste disposal a year earlier with the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.

In a federal complaint filed on June 30 in Washington, Entergy says it has paid more than $370 million toward the DOE contract to date, but that the SNF, short for spent nuclear fuel, remains untouched.

“DOE did not begin to dispose of SNF by January 31, 1998, as required by the NWPA and standard contract,” the complaint states. “For almost twenty years since the 1998 performance deadline, DOE has continued its retreat on the date it will begin performance at a repository from 2010 to 2017 to 2020 and now 2048, and has failed and refused to provide any firm commencement date for the disposal of SNF.”

NWPA is short for Nuclear Waste Policy Act, the law passed by Congress in 1982.

When the government first delayed the cleanup in 1987, according to the complaint, it asserted that a repository for the rods wouldn’t be available until 2003.

Entergy says it continued to wait as Congress amended the waste policy, ultimately deciding to assign all the materials that didn’t go into Nevada’s Yuca Mountains to another facility that had yet to be determined.

The DOE submitted its final interpretation of the NWPA in 1995, moving the goal posts again from 1998 to 2010.

Entergy notes that both the D.C. and Federal Circuits have slammed the DOE for its unfulfilled obligations in various court challenges brought by other nuclear plants with similar contracts.

The case Entergy filed last week is actually its third round of litigation. It notes that the first two cases went to trial in 2007 and 2014, respectively, before Judge Charles Lettow with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

“In accordance with the Federal Circuit’s instruction in Indiana Michigan, Plaintiffs bring this ‘third round’ case to recover significant damages incurred during the period from April 1, 2012, to the present caused by the government’s continuing partial material breach of its unconditional obligation to begin disposing of SNF generated by ANO,” the complaint states, abbreviating Arkansas Nuclear One.

Entergy says the cost of the government’s delay mount every day.

The cost of extended on-site storage of spent nuclear fuel includes but is “not limited to the acquisition and loading of dry fuel storage casks, acquisition and maintenance of required ancillary equipment, monitoring spent fuel storage facilities, modifications to security facilities, expansion of storage facilities, and plant modifications necessary to facilitate storage,” according to the complaint.

Entergy and System Fuels are represented in the case by in-house counsel Samuel Morris IV. The Department of Energy has not returned a request for comment.

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