Company awarded millions in nuclear storage lawsuit

MINNEAPOLIS -- A court has awarded Xcel Energy Inc. $116.5 million over the federal government's failure to open the Yucca Mountain nuclear storage facility on time.

Yucca Mountain was designated in the 1980s as the country's nuclear waste repository. Under the law, the Energy Department was required to open the Nevada site for nuclear waste storage by 1998, but the project has been bogged down in controversy, and the earliest possible opening date would be 2017.

Northern States Power Co., a predecessor company to Xcel Energy, sued the Department of Energy, claiming breach of contract. In a decision dated last Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims sided with the Minneapolis-based utility.

Charles Bomberger, general manager of Nuclear Asset Management for Xcel Energy, said his company was pleased with the court decision.

"The government, just like everybody else, is obligated under this high level waste policy act of 1982 to be the federal repository for the spent fuel," Bomberger said. "We know now that the courts have upheld that we did have a binding contract, and held them accountable."

A Department of Energy spokeswoman declined to comment.

The case involved Xcel Energy's three nuclear power plants in Minnesota.

Minnesota state Sen. Ellen Anderson, chairman of the State Senate's Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Budget Division, said the ruling won't make up for the millions of dollars Minnesota ratepayers already have spent on nuclear waste storage.