Entergy sues DOE over spent fuel at two nuclear plants

Entergy (NYSE: ETR) is one of the latest U.S. power generators to sue the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) over DOE’s failure to take over responsibility for spent fuel, in this case at two nuclear plants purchased from CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS) a few years ago.

Entergy filed suit Sept. 21 in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims over DOE’s failure to meet its obligation to begin disposing of spent nuclear fuel from the Palisades plant, which is still operating, as well as Big Rock Point, which is a retired unit.

Big Rock ceased operation in the 1990s. Palisades has a generating capacity of roughly 800 MW.

Entergy purchased the two nuclear plants in Michigan from CMS subsidiary Consumers Energy in 2007. Entergy Nuclear Palisades LLC (ENP) said it had brought suit to recover costs associated with DOE’s failure to comply with the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.

The act requires DOE to start disposing of spent nuclear fuel from commercial reactor sites by Jan. 31, 1998. That’s a deadline that appears to be slipping ever further into the future with the Obama Administration’s cancellation of the Yucca Mountain waste repository in Nevada.

ENP owns both the Palisades nuclear plant and the independent spent fuel storage facility at the Big Rock Point site. The Federal Claims Court had ruled in 2005 that DOE had breached its obligation with Consumers Energy at Palisades and Big Rock Point.

Among other things, Entergy argues that DOE’s inaction amounts to a “taking” under government property laws because Entergy could never fully decommission the nuclear plant sites until the spent fuel is removed.

Nuclear plant operators pay a fee, based on the amount of electricity generated, to the government to fund DOE’s nuclear waste disposal efforts. Entergy said it will be seeking a level of damages that would be established at trial.

Entergy is represented in the case by attorneys for the Balch & Bingham law firm in Birmingham, Ala.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.