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Wednesday
Mar242010

With hasty stroke of a pen, Bush DOE transferred billions of dollars in radioactive waste liability onto taxpayers

Beyond Nuclear, along with Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and the law firm of  Harmon, Curran, Spielberg, and Eisenberg, LLP, have broken the story that between November 4, 2008 (the day Barack Obama was elected President) and January 22, 2009 (two days after he took the Oath of Office), the George W. Bush administration’s Department of Energy (DOE) hurriedly signed new irradiated nuclear fuel contracts with utilities proposing 21 new atomic reactors. This obligates U.S. taxpayers to ultimate financial liability for breach of contract damages if DOE fails to take possession of these estimated 21,000 metric tons of high-level radioactive waste by ten years after the new reactors’ licenses terminate. This could cost taxpayers billions or even tens of billions of dollars over time. DOE signed these contracts despite the fact that it has already cost taxpayers $565 million in damages for past breached contacts involving old radioactive waste at commercial reactors, with $790 million more soon to be transferred from the U.S. Treasury to atomic utilities. In fact, DOE estimates that by 2020, taxpayers will have paid $12.3 billion in damages to nuclear utilities for waste contract breaches, while the nuclear industry itself estimates the ultimate taxpayer damage awards will top $50 billion. These new contracts will only add to that crushing burden. See the full materials from the press conference: media release, backgrounder on new waste disposal contracts (authored by Beyond Nuclear’s Kevin Kamps), Principles for Safeguarding Nuclear Waste at Reactors, and the new contracts themselves, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. You can even listen to an audio recording of the press conference. Also see Arjun Makhijani's opening statement, as well as Kevin's and attorney Diane Curran's. The news conference garnered 25 stories in the media, including a major article in Christian Science Monitor.