COLUMBUS - Nebraska Public Power District has reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Energy compensating the utility for years of nuclear fuel storage.

Under the agreement, which came after a decade of litigation, NPPD received $60.5 million from the DOE to cover costs associated with building a spent-fuel storage facility at Cooper Nuclear Station near Brownville. The payment covers expenses through 2009, and additional money is expected to go the district's way through 2013.

NPPD has paid $167 million to the National Waste Policy Act fund since it was established in 1982 as a way for DOE to dispose of high-level radioactive waste and used nuclear fuel.

However, the department never accepted any waste and a permanent storage facility - originally planned at Nevada's Yucca Mountain - wasn't built, despite being mandated in 1998.

The Obama Administration has strongly opposed the Yucca Mountain project and Nevada state officials, including Sen. Harry Reid, protested the proposed dump site. The DOE filed a motion with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last year to withdraw the license application for a high-level nuclear waste repository there.

NPPD President and CEO Pat Pope called the recent settlement "favorable" for both the utility and its approximately 1 million customers.

"Over the years, our customers have been paying into the federal fund for a permanent storage location, which has not been developed," he said. "NPPD anticipates that it will have recouped approximately 90 percent of our costs through 2009 for the on-site storage facility and have avoided significant future legal expenses by agreeing to this settlement."

According to Pope, the settlement payment will be used for working capital and the purchase of future nuclear fuel. Fuel expenses at Cooper were $66 million this spring, with the next refueling expected to cost approximately $120 million.

NPPD was joined in the lawsuit against the DOE by nuclear utilities across the country.

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