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August 19, 2014

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Nuclear plant operator wins $19 million over failure to open Yucca repository

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Yucca Mountain is located about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Yucca Mountain

The U.S. Energy Department plans to store spent nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain, an extinct volcano about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

RICHLAND, Wash. — The Department of Energy must pay Energy Northwest $19 million for its continued costs from the failure to open a national repository for spent fuel from its nuclear power plant, a federal court ordered.

The department has not accepted spent fuel as promised because the Obama administration decided not to open the waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

This week's court ruling follows a 2011 decision that awarded Energy Northwest $49 million, the Tri-City Herald reported Thursday.

"This is another big victory for the region and the ratepayers of the Northwest," said Mark Reddemann, Energy Northwest chief executive. "However, this judgment does not resolve the issue of long-term storage of used nuclear fuel, nor does it lessen the legal obligation of the federal government to develop and manage that process."

In 1983, Energy Northwest and other U.S. nuclear utilities entered into an agreement with DOE for disposal of used nuclear fuel, which was to start by January 1998.

After the Obama administration decided to shut down work on Yucca Mountain, a commission on America's Nuclear Future was to propose a plan for the nation's used commercial nuclear fuel and defense high-level radioactive waste, including waste at Hanford.

Nuclear utilities have filed more than 60 lawsuits, including the one filed by Energy Northwest.

Meanwhile, spent fuel from the Columbia Generating Station is going into concrete and steel casks on an outdoor storage pad. Previously, used fuel had been kept in a storage pool next to the reactor core.

Each concrete cask encases a stainless steel canister that can be filled underwater with used fuel.

The used fuel can be safely and securely stored for decades on the concrete pad, said Energy Northwest, but it continues to advocate for a national repository.

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