Six weeks ago I wrote a column ("$70,000 an Hour," July 15, 1996, p. 4) about nuclear waste, the Department of Energy (DOE), and the billions of dollars paid in by electric utilities that lie stranded in the federal nuclear waste fund.
On July 23 a federal appeals court ruled that DOE must establish a repository and begin accepting high-level nuclear waste for storage, beginning January 31, 1998. (See, Indiana-Michigan Power Co. v. DOE, D.C. Cir. Nos. 95-1279, et al.)
At one point, a federal district judge in the case reportedly told DOE's attorney, "If your client was a private corporation, it would be in jail by now."
The appeals court was no kinder. Referring to DOE's attempt to collect fees from utilities without solving the storage problem, the court invoked an old, off-color Yiddish proverb: "Here is air; give me money."
During the past several months you may have read about a study that found no net stranded investment for electric utilities in Massachusetts. In other words, the state's utilities could sell their plants at a price above net book cost, reaping a gain from restructuring. ("Estimation of Market Value, Stranded Investment, and Restructuring Gains for Major Massachusetts Utilities," Apr. 17, 1996, Resource Insight, Inc., Boston, Tel: 617-723-1774.)
Yet you may not be aware of another study on stranded costs, put together by Commissioner John Hanger of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), and attached as an appendix to a separate analysis (over 100 pages, plus tables and charts) that he prepared to support the PUC's July report on electric deregulation. (Report and Recommendation to the Governor and General Assembly on Electric Competition, Docket No. I-940032, July 1996.)