New England Council Urges Nuke Commission To Proceed With Yucca Mountain Site For Nuclear Waste

Business Organization Concerned About Costs For Businesses And Consumers

Boston, MA (August 11, 2010) – The New England Council, a non-partisan business organization representing businesses throughout the six New England states, has called on an Obama Administration nuclear commission to reconsider Yucca Mountain as the best site for the permanent storage of spent nuclear fuel.  The NEC has filed comments outlining its position with the Transportation and Storage Subcommittee of the Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) on America’s Nuclear Future.

“For years, the federal government has been moving forward with plans for a permanent site for spent nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, spending $10 billion in the process” said James Brett, President and CEO of the New England Council.  “It is troubling that we’re now going back to the drawing board, creating a Blue Ribbon Commission to devise an alternative, while energy companies and their ratepayers continue to foot the bill to store this dangerous waste.  The New England Council has long believed that Yucca Mountain is the only sensible location for the permanent disposal of such high-level radioactive waste, and we hope this commission will revisit this option.”

In a letter submitted to the BRC Transportation and Storage Subcommittee late yesterday, the New England Council notes that New England is home to three shutdown commercial reactors: Yankee Nuclear Power Station in Rowe, Massachusetts, Maine Yankee in Wicasset, Maine, and Connecticut Yankee in Haddam Neck, Connecticut.  While these facilities provided New England residents with safe, reliable, and affordable power for many years, they are now storing spent nuclear material that the federal government agreed to take possession of over ten years ago.  Because these plants are now decommissioned, the costs being incurred are entirely related to the storage of the spent fuel.

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM) is responsible for the management and disposal of spent nuclear fuel and other highly radioactive waste from nuclear power plants and defense facilities.  In 1982, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) identified Yucca Mountain as the only candidate site for permanent disposal of such waste.

The NWPA also authorized the DOE to enter into contracts with nuclear power providers whereby DOE would collect and dispose of spent nuclear fuel in exchange for payments by the providers into a statutorily established Nuclear Waste Fund (NWF), consisting of a tenth of a cent per kilowatt hour fee paid by their ratepayers who benefited from the electricity generated by nuclear power.  Congress, through the NWPA, directed the federal disposal process to begin no later than January 31, 1998.  Despite the fact that fees paid into the NWF totaled $17.4 billion through the second quarter of FY2010, the DOE failed to begin collecting and disposing of this spent nuclear fuel by the statutory deadline, forcing nuclear utilities to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on temporary storage for this spent nuclear fuel that the federal government was contractually obligated to remove. The New England states have collectively contributed nearly $900 million to the NWF.

The New England Council, whose members include energy companies throughout the six New England States, has long supported nuclear energy as a reliable and affordable power source.  In 2006, the Council released a report outlining the benefits of nuclear power and advocating for power plant uprate and license renewals, as well as the consideration of additional nuclear facilities in the region.  The report, however, also noted that the federal government must meet its obligation to accept and manage used nuclear fuel.  The Council has been a longtime supporter of the federal government’s efforts to establish a central nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

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