Entergy Nuclear Fitzpatrick, LLC v. United States, No. 12-5059 (Fed. Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
In 1983, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act established a plan for spent nuclear fuel (SNF) generated by nuclear power plants, 42 U.S.C. 10101–10270. The Act made utilities responsible for SNF storage until the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) accepts the material. The Secretary of Energy entered into contracts with nuclear utilities to accept SNF in return for payment of fees. The Act provided that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission “shall not issue or renew a license” to any nuclear utility unless the utility has entered into a contract with DOE or DOE certifies ongoing negotiations. Nuclear utilities, including the owner of the Entergy nuclear power stations, entered into contracts and began making payments, which have continued. By 1994, DOE knew it would be unable to accept SNF by the Act’s January 31, 1998 deadline. In 1995, DOE issued a “Final Interpretation” that took the position that it did not have an unconditional obligation to begin performance on that date. Entergy sued, asserting that DOE’s partial breach caused it to incur additional costs for SNF storage. The claims court struck an unavoidable delay defense, based on a prior decision rejecting DOE’s argument that its failure was “unavoidable” under the contract. The Federal Circuit affirmed.