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Sacramento Municipal Utility District v. United States

Citation: 44 ELR 20138
No. 2013-5086, -5087, (Fed. Cir., 06/20/2014)

The Federal Circuit held that the United States must pay a California utility $53,159,863 for DOE's failure to accept and dispose of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. Under a standard contract the utility entered into with DOE pursuant to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, the utility agreed to pay $40 million into the Nuclear Waste Fund in return for DOI's acceptance and disposal of the waste. DOE breached the contract, and the utility filed its first suit for damages in 1998. Despite prevailing in a complex series of adjudications, the utility has yet to recover any damages. Below, the court of federal claims reduced the utility's judgment to $38,845,398 for the period of 1992-2009. But in so doing, the lower court erred by reducing the utility's award in a first suit by inflated offsets improperly assessed in a second suit. Accordingly, the Federal Circuit reversed the reduced judgment and reinstated a prior award of $53,159,863 award for the period of 1992-2003. The lower court also erred by barring the utility's exchange theory in the second suit on the basis of collateral estoppel, and by reassessing a prior "wet pool offset" determination that is the law of the case. The Federal Circuit, therefore, vacated the award with respect to 2004-2009 and remanded the case for consideration of the exchange theory and to determine a fuel-out date.