Spent fuel rod storage containers at Entergy Vermont Yan­kee. (Reformer file photo)
Spent fuel rod storage containers at Entergy Vermont Yan­kee. (Reformer file photo)

BRATTLEBORO -- In what it is terming "Round 2," Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee is once again suing the U.S. Department of Energy for failing to live up to its contractual agreement to take custody of nuclear waste produced at the plant in Vernon.

In "Round 1," which began in 2008 and was resolved by a federal appeals court in June of 2012, Entergy was awarded nearly $88 million for its expenses related to the management and storage of spent nuclear fuel and legal costs incurred in pursuing its complaint against DOE.

In this latest filing, which was delivered to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., Entergy is asking for compensation of costs related to spent nuclear fuel storage since April 30, 2008, including the expansion cost of its dry cask storage facility located just north of the reactor building.

In 1983, the Department of Energy entered into contracts with the operators of the nation's nuclear power plants and agreed to take possession of all nuclear waste produced as a result of their operations. The plan was to move the waste to a centralized storage facility for long-term disposal, and after a siting process, Yucca Mountain in Nevada was chosen. But after $9 billion was invested in the project, the Obama administration pulled the plug due to local opposition, environmental concerns and pressure from Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader and democrat from Nevada. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 set the storage facility's capacity at 63,000 metric tons, the same quantity that is expected to be produced by the nation's power plants by the end of this year.

In January of 2012, the Blue Ribbon Commission released a report concluding a repository needed to be established as quickly as possible, but not without local input. Currently, all the waste produced by the power plants is being stored onsite in either spent nuclear fuel pools or dry casks.

Costs for the development of a repository and handling of the spent fuel were financed through a tax on each kilowatt hour of energy produced by nuclear power plants and by taxpayers for the disposal of weapons and naval nuclear waste.

Power plant operators around the country have been filing for claims and though some amounts have been amended by the courts, none have so far been denied.

In August of 2013, Entergy announced it would be ceasing operations at Yankee at the end of 2014. Once all of the spent fuel has cooled adequately, it will be moved out of the spent fuel pool and into dry casks. Once that process is complete, decommissioning of the site will begin, but spent fuel will remain there until the federal government takes possession of it.

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.