WISCASSET — The town could collect more than $8 million for the 64 containers of nuclear waste stored at the former Maine Yankee power plant site.

Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, introduced the Sensible, Timely Relief for America’s Nuclear Districts Economic Development (STRANDED) Act this month, aimed at providing financial relief to communities like Wiscasset stuck with storing nuclear waste.

Should the Stranded Act pass, Wiscasset, home to decommissioned Maine Yankee, would be eligible to receive $15 per kilogram of nuclear waste currently being housed at the site, which is the rate for impact assistance established under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.

There are about 542 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel stored at Maine Yankee, meaning Wiscasset would collect over $8 million from the government. According to Maine Yankee, it costs roughly $10 million per year to maintain the 64 canisters of radioactive waste.

“In the absence of a permanent (disposal) site, this will help alleviate the burden communities face and may help encourage Congress to take action on a long-term solution for nuclear waste, which is something Collins supports,” said Christopher Knight, a spokesman for Collins.

Maine Yankee operated from 1972 to 1996. The company’s board voted to cease operations rather than invest in fixing expensive safety-related problems to keep the plant running.

The spent nuclear fuel is housed in 64 dry storage casks, which stand on 16 3-foot-thick concrete pads. Each concrete cask is comprised of a 2.5-inch thick steel liner surrounded by 28 inches of reinforced concrete.

The federal government was contractually obligated to remove the radioactive waste by 1998, but that commitment was never fulfilled.

Plans to build a permanent disposal site in Yucca Mountain in Nevada were scrapped in 2009 by the Obama Administration. The Trump administration has made no plans to revive the Yucca Mountain project.

A federal judge has awarded the owners of three nuclear power plants millions of dollars. This money pays for the operation of the fuel storage site so local taxpayers, including those in Wiscasset, aren’t left to foot the bill.

“The Yankee companies collectively have to date recovered about $575 million on behalf of our ratepayers in the ongoing litigation with the Department of Energy,” said Eric Howes, Maine Yankee director of public and government affairs. “Maine Yankee’s portion of the $575 million total is about $176.5 million.”

This money was amassed as a result of four separate lawsuits against the Department of Energy. When the U.S. government loses a lawsuit, the money lost comes from a judgment fund, which is funded by taxpayers.

“The Nuclear Waste Policy Act says those who benefit from nuclear power would be responsible for the removal of the spent nuclear fuel,” Howes said. “The cost of disposing Maine Yankee’s fuel has been fully paid for by the ratepayers. The government, however, has not met its obligation to remove the material from the site, and that’s true at every nuclear waste site in the country.”

Howes said Maine Yankee’s goal is to go out of business.

“It’s our responsibility to store this material in accordance with all the federal regulations,” Howes said. “When the government finally removes the spent nuclear fuel, we’ll go out of business, but I don’t know when that will be.”

There are 24 permanently and announced shutdown nuclear sites across the U.S. Five are in New England.

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