Edison Seeks Return of $146M for Yucca Mountain

By Published On: May 22, 2009

In a recent federal court hearing, Southern California Edison sought to recover $146.4 million in damages for radioactive waste storage funds it’s sent to the federal government. The utility filed the claim in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims to recoup the costs it incurred to store high-level waste on site at its San Onofre nuclear facility in the absence of a long-promised federal storage facility. In total, Edison ratepayers have sent about $400 million to the federal government to establish a waste repository, according to a court document. Edison argued in the hearing last month in federal court that the Department of Energy “breached a contract” with the utility because it did not construct a federal waste repository for nuclear waste. Nuclear plant-owning utilities, like Edison, as well as Pacific Gas & Electric and Sacramento Municipal Utility District, are required to contribute ratepayer funds to the federal government for radioactive waste disposal from their nuclear plants. Since the federal government has never provided a facility for the waste, California utilities have opted to build on-site temporary, “dry cask,” storage. Recent moves at the federal level, including the newly appointed chief of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, signify that a federal waste facility that was supposed to be built at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, is on permanent hold. High-level radioactive wastes from nuclear power plants are expected to remain toxic for about 240,000 years. With the federal waste dump on hold, utilities are using dry cask storage to expand their current on-site method of storing radioactive waste in “spent fuel” pools at power plant sites. Those pools, both at Edison’s and PG&E’s sites, are full, or near full. Without adding the temporary dry cask storage, the power plants would have to cease operation because there is no other place for mounting wastes. A decision on the compensatory claim is expected in late summer, according to an Edison spokesperson.

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