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February 01, 2013

Court awards Sacramento utility millions for nuke waste case

A #court has awarded the #Sacramento Municipal Utility District more than $34 million for the federal government's failure to provide a permanent nuclear waste storage site.

In a 59-page decision quietly issued Thursday, U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Susan G. Braden concluded the utility district was owed $34,659,185 over what amounted to a partial breach of contract covering the years 1992 through 2009.

Attorneys with the firm Arnold & Porter have been representing SMUD during the long-running case, one of a number of claims involving the nuclear storage issue.

Stymied by politics, the federal government has failed to meet its commitment to open a nuclear waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. As a result, SMUD and other utility companies have been saddled with storing spent fuel from nuclear power plants.

The Sacramento utility district accumulated fuel from the old Rancho Seco nuclear power plant, which was closed following a public referendum in 1989. The first lawsuit was filed over the federal government's failure to provide permanent storage in 1998, and the ensuing legal battles have since gone up and down the appellate ladder.

The court's $34,659,185 award is less than half of what the utility district had originally sought. The net amount the federal government owes was offset somewhat by costs the Sacramento utility district was able to avoid.


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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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