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Vermont Yankee

Entergy sues federal Dept. of Energy over waste storage

Entergy Nuclear has again filed suit against the federal Department of Energy, seeking $88 million it has already spent on handling and storing its high-level radioactive waste at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon.

The lawsuit, filed last week in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, noted that it was Entergy’s “Round 2” with suing the federal government over the waste storage issue. The company was successful in 2012 during “Round 1.”

The lawsuit alleges a “partial breach of contract” by the federal government’s failure under the provisions of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, under which the Department of Energy was responsible for taking the high-level radioactive waste from commercial reactors. Entergy has been paying into a federal fund to pay for the disposal and storage of the waste.

“Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee and its predecessor honored, and Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee continues to honor, all of their contractual obligations under the standard contract,” the lawsuit states. “The government breached the standard contract by failing to accept spent nuclear fuel as required.”

Entergy’s spokesman in Vermont, Robert Williams, said the company will let its court filing speak for itself.

The Department of Energy had been looking at a high-level radioactive waste facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but shortly after President Barack Obama took office, Yucca Mountain was shelved because of ongoing environmental concerns and the political opposition of Senate majority leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

The lawsuit states Entergy has spent the $88 million since 2008. It plans to shut down Yankee at the end of this year, citing market forces, particularly the low cost of natural gas.

Christopher Recchia, commissioner of the Department of Public Service, said he hopes the matter can be resolved quickly.

“The state would like to see a negotiated settlement between the Department of Energy and Entergy. They shouldn’t be spending a lot of time on this,” Recchia said, noting the earlier decision in Entergy’s favor. He said the Entergy lawsuit does not include the unresolved issue of whether Entergy can use Vermont Yankee’s $620 million decommissioning trust fund for fuel management, including building an expansion of its dry cask storage facility just north of the reactor building.

“Prompt reimbursement from the federal government will help,” Recchia said.

Entergy will seek state approval to build an expansion of the waste storage facility later this year. Once the plant shuts down, it will transfer its spent nuclear fuel to the facility.

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