WASHINGTON -- The Energy Department must justify the $750 million it collects annually from the atomic power industry for waste disposal given that it no longer plans to develop a depository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
A three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington on Friday said the department's 2010 fee determination was "legally defective" and ruled it has six months to evaluate whether collection of the fee will provide enough or too little revenue to offset costs of the nuclear-waste disposal program.
"Long before the Yucca Mountain program was chosen, the secretary, as we have noted, ran rather sophisticated evaluations of the potential costs of a hypothetical repository as part of his policy of conducting a 'thorough analysis,' " the court said in its ruling. "His 2010 determination falls far below the department's own previous standard."
Nuclear power plant owners sued the department seeking to have the fees be suspended until a new disposal program begins.