A federal judge Thursday directed the U.S. Department of Energy to pay Maine Yankee $35.7 million for failing to remove spent nuclear fuel that has been stored at the dormant power plant for 17 years.

The money reimburses Wiscasset-based Maine Yankee Atomic Power Co. for costs to store the fuel between 2003 and 2008. Earlier this year, a judge awarded the plant $81.7 million to cover costs between 1998 and 2002. A third round of claims has been filed for costs incurred between 2009 and 2012.

Two other New England power plants – Connecticut Yankee Atomic Power Co. and Yankee Atomic Electric Co. of Rowe, Mass. – also were awarded damages this week in the amounts of $126.3 million and $73.3 million, respectively.

Wayne Norton, president of the Connecticut and Massachusetts plants and chief nuclear officer of Maine Yankee, said the decision is good news but it doesn’t change the fact that all the spent fuel is still sitting at the plants, including 550 metric tons in Wiscasset.

“We urge the federal government to fulfill its commitment to remove this material from our sites without further delay and to avoid filing a costly appeal that would only prolong the legal process and adversely affect ratepayers and taxpayers,” Norton said in a statement.

The Energy Department has 60 days to appeal the judge’s decision in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington.

The two sides were locked in litigation until February, when the government finally was ordered to begin paying former power plants that were storing spent fuel. Maine Yankee officials have said in the past that the annual cost to store its waste is about $9 million.

Currently, the storage costs at Maine Yankee are being paid by the coalition of utilities in New England that now own the plant, including Central Maine Power and Bangor Hydro Electric. Those companies will be reimbursed with the federal dollars and will, in turn, reimburse ratepayers through reduced rates.

Maine Yankee operated from 1972 to 1996 before it was decommissioned.

The Energy Department has been working for years to find the best way to store nuclear waste but has yet to find the answer.

“We are encouraged that the DOE’s nuclear waste management strategy report released earlier this year documents administration support for an integrated nuclear waste management system that includes a pilot interim storage facility with an initial focus on accepting spent nuclear fuel from shut-down reactor sites,” Norton said in his statement.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

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