Judge bars suites over HLW delays

29 April 1999

In a court ruling that is being watched closely by both the nuclear industry and the US Department of Energy, a US Court of Federal Claims in Washington, DC, has barred Northern States Power Co (NSPC) in Minnesota from seeking monetary damages from the federal government over delays in removing spent fuel from the Prairie Island and Monticello nuclear stations.

Judge John P Wiese said NSPC should use administrative remedies provided in its contract with DOE to recover any damages. The judge noted that the utility, for example, could reduce its payments into the Nuclear Waste Fund.

The case directly involved only NSPC. But three other US utilities – Florida Power & Light, Duke Power and Indiana-Michigan Power – have also filed lawsuits, and other utilities have been watching the developments closely.

Wiese’s ruling appeared to contradict a decision last year by a different judge in the US Court of Federal Claims who ruled that the owners of three shutdown nuclear plants in New England could pursue a court claim against the DOE. One difference between the rulings, however, is that NSPC’s reactors are still operating.

As NEI went to press, NSPC had not decided whether to appeal.

Nationwide, the Nuclear Energy Institute says the DOE is liable for as much as $56 billion in damages because of its refusal to remove spent fuel from utility sites, where it is stored in pools or casks.

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