UNITED STATES Eight electric utilities have asked a US appeals court to block an out-of-court settlement between the Department of Energy and Exelon of a dispute arising out of delays in removing spent fuel from the Peach Bottom nuclear plant in Pennsylvania.
The lawsuit, filed in late November, exemplifies the schism among utilities over the best legal strategy for dealing with the Energy Department delays in removing spent fuel from commercial nuclear plant sites. The DOE is three years behind the January 1998 deadline specified in the 1983 Nuclear Waste Policy Act for the government to begin taking it away.
The companies filing the suit are concerned that the DOE/Exelon settlement, announced in July 2000, could reduce payments into the Nuclear Waste Fund. Joining in the lawsuit were Southern Nuclear, Carolina Power & Light, Duke Energy, Florida Power & Light, Excel and Texas Utilities.
The DOE/Exelon settlement allows the utility (formerly PECO Energy) to reduce its payments into the Nuclear Waste Fund by up to $80 million over the next 10 years to recover the costs of storing spent fuel at Peach Bottom beyond January 1998.
Since that settlement was reached, however, a three-judge panel of the appeals court cleared the way for at least four US electric utilities, and perhaps others, to file damage claims against DOE in the US Court of Federal Claims. Exelon was not among the utilities suing DOE.