Conn., Mass., Maine nuke plants win fed payments

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Three decommissioned nuclear plants in New England said Thursday they've been reimbursed nearly $160 million from the federal government in a 14-year-old lawsuit over costs to dispose of spent nuclear fuel that has yet to be removed.

Maine Yankee Atomic Power Co., Connecticut Yankee Atomic Power Co. and Yankee Atomic Electric Co. said the federal government decided against appealing a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling upholding claims of $39.7 million to Connecticut Yankee in Haddam, $81.7 million to Maine Yankee in Wiscasset, Maine, and $38.3 million to Yankee Atomic in Rowe, Mass.

The plants say they are seeking an additional $247 million in damages to reimburse ratepayers for costs that were originally intended to go toward disposal of the fuel rods but have since been spent to maintain storage sites. The plants pay between $7 million and 11 million a year per storage site.

They will file plans with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the next few months to establish how the money will be distributed to ratepayers.

Bob Capstick, a spokesman for Connecticut Yankee and Yankee Atomic, said the dispute dates to the 1990s when the plants were decommissioned for economic or other business reasons.

The Department of Energy signed contracts with utility companies to remove the spent fuel in 1998, but had nowhere to store the rods, he said. States tried to force the federal agency to meet its mandate to remove the spent fuel rods, and courts ruled that utilities could sue the government for damages, he said.

"That's when we filed our lawsuits," he said. "It's been very frustrating."

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Energy referred questions to the Department of Justice, which did not immediately comment.

The fuel rods are stored in steel canisters sealed in dry casks and ready to be transported, Capstick said.

Federal officials have not found a place to store the nuclear rods. Legislation to place a nuclear waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada was signed into law in 1987, and more than $15 billion was spent on the site that was never completed. Progress has stalled for the past three years because President Barack Obama and Congress have nearly ended the project.

An estimated 72,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel are being stored at operating and closed reactors in 35 states as officials seek a long-term storage solution.

"I expect they will be here for many years to come," Capstick said.

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