For the fourth time since 1998, a federal judge has awarded the owners of three closed nuclear power plants, including Maine Yankee, millions of dollars for the federal government’s failure to remove spent nuclear fuel.

According to Connecticut Yankee Atomic Power Co., Yankee Atomic Electric Co., and Maine Yankee Atomic Power Co., the owners won a partial summary judgment last week totaling $103.2 million. Maine Yankee’s share is $34.4 million.

The award will help offset the roughly $10 million per year cost of operating an interim spent fuel storage site on plant property in Wiscasset. It will indirectly benefit ratepayers, who otherwise foot the bill. The actual financial impact hasn’t been determined, but is expected to be minimal.

In 2016, for instance, Maine Yankee was awarded about $24.6 million. Roughly $3.6 million of the total award was returned to utilities, including Central Maine Power. The balance, $21 million, went to operate the spent fuel storage site.

“We are very pleased to have been awarded an additional $103.2 million in costs for our ratepayers resulting from the Department of Energy’s continuing failure to honor its contractual obligations to begin removing spent nuclear fuel,” Wayne Norton, president of the three companies, said in a statement announcing the award.

Norton noted that courts had previously awarded the three companies roughly $472 million in three separate cases.

He urged Congress to authorize funding for a pilot program to remove and consolidate spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste from closed reactor sites, and to complete a review for a permanent repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

Maine Yankee operated from 1972 to 1996. Although activists fought for years to close the plant, it was the company’s board that ultimately voted to pull the plug rather than fix expensive, safety-related problems.

Yankee, in Rowe, Massachusetts, closed in 1992. Connecticut Yankee shut down in 1996.

By law, the federal government is charged with coming up with a long-term solution for disposing of radioactive waste from nuclear reactors. It was supposed to begin removing waste in 1998. Facing ongoing public and political opposition, that process hasn’t happened.

Plans to build a permanent waste repository in the Nevada desert were scrapped in 2009 by President Obama. The Trump administration has sent mixed signals about whether it supports reviving Yucca Mountain.

For the foreseeable future, highly radioactive fuel rods are being stored in 60 airtight steel canisters and housed in concrete casks in Wiscasset. Another four canisters hold radioactive steel from the decommissioning process. Maintaining them costs roughly $10 million a year, according to Maine Yankee.

The current award is for a period from 2013 to 2016, and the three companies are seeking an additional $1.2 million in costs. The federal government has 60 days to appeal the award.

Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at:

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