Starting 16 May 2014, the fee charged to US electricity customers to build a geological repository will no longer be collected.

The U.S. Department of Energy has halted collection of the $750 million-per-year consumer surcharge to pay for used nuclear fuel management following a ruling in the NARUC v DOE case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

It ruled that DOE could not continue to collect the fee in light of the department’s termination of the Yucca Mountain, Nevada, repository programme, said co-petitioner the Nuclear Energy Institute (the main petitioner was the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners). The court decision prohibits future collection of the fee until DOE complies with the Nuclear Waste Policy Act or Congress enacts an alternative used fuel management plan.

According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, nuclear energy customers have paid more than $30 billion into the nuclear waste fund.

It said: "The industry shares the appellate court’s frustration with DOE’s many years of inaction to develop a repository. Given that the Nuclear Waste Policy Act remains in effect, Congress should provide sufficient funds to the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to complete the licensing process for the Yucca Mountain repository. In addition, Congress and the administration should develop a sustainable program for long-term used nuclear fuel management.

 "We urge policymakers to establish a new organization empowered with authority and funding to implement an effective and efficient nuclear waste management and disposal program. Such a program requires that the new management entity be given access to revenues from future Nuclear Waste Fund fees and the $30 billion-plus fund balance. The industry also believes a consolidated storage facility should be pursued while progress is made toward either licensing the Yucca Mountain repository or siting a new disposal facility."

A group of US utilities and utility regulators, the Nuclear Waste Strategy Coalition, also praised the halt of the fee. It added:“The federal government still owes the performance it is obligated to provide under statute and contract, and we remain hopeful that the Court’s series of strong directives – combined with our repeated pleas on behalf of electric consumers and other stakeholders – will result in timely action."

Picture: Infographic from the Nuclear Energy Institute