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Watchdog: Nuclear waste fund has amassed unused billions via Orange County Register

Collected to pay for disposal, money has instead gone nowhere – as has the waste.

So, $41 billion is not chump change.

It could buy some 430 Airbus jets, two-thirds of the California High Speed Rail project, six months of war in Afghanistan.

One thing $41 billion apparently cannot buy: the safe disposal of America’s highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel, which is piling up at commercial reactors like San Onofre’s, from one coast to the other.

Yet $41 billion is how much has amassed in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Nuclear Waste Fund over the past 30-odd years, aiming to do just that. It has been paid by the folks who use electricity generated by reactors, and they have gotten little but dithering for their money.

[…]

WHY?

A bit of background: In the last century, nuclear power was the future. To encourage its development, the federal government passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, promising to accept and dispose of spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste by Jan. 31, 1998. In return, the utilities would make quarterly payments into the aforementioned Nuclear Waste Fund.

The utilities held up their end of the bargain – pumping about $750 million a year into the fund – but the DOE did not. It has not accepted a single ounce of commercial nuclear waste for permanent disposal. Not one.

[…]

Will that be enough to get the job done? No one really knows – not even the DOE.

The federal judge in this case asked the DOE to justify this disposal fee – which would require, of course, knowing how much disposal would actually cost. And the agency had no idea.

The DOE “sets forth an enormous range of possible costs,” the judge wrote. “According to the secretary, the final balance of the fund to be used to pay the costs of disposal could be somewhere between a $2 trillion deficit and a $4.9 trillion surplus. This range is so large as to be absolutely useless.”

Read more at Watchdog: Nuclear waste fund has amassed unused billions

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25 Responses

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