Deadline advances Yucca lawsuit

  • Posted: Saturday, January 5, 2013 12:15 a.m.
    UPDATED: Saturday, January 5, 2013 9:08 a.m.

Aiken County, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the State of Nevada all agree on two facts related to Yucca Mountain: There is no new money for it, and it is not mentioned in the latest budget. However, the lack of specifically appropriated funds is being taken by both sides of the lawsuit in support of their opposing cases.

An appeals court panel agreed to give the NRC until Friday to submit paperwork in the long-debated case over the shuttered Yucca Mountain geological waste repository.

Attorneys representing Aiken County stated in its motion that “simply put, no appropriations decisions have been made which prohibit the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from using available funds to continue the agency's mandatory review of the Yucca Mountain license application. It continues to stand as the law of the land.”

The NRC has, on hand, nearly $10.5 million in Nuclear Waste Fund carryover. Plaintiffs want the funds to be used to continue the licensing process for Yucca.

The NRC stated that, “it would be a far more appropriate to conserve the limited amounts … so that it would be available if and when Congress decides to fund the project … or to direct their use toward an alternative high-level waste solution.”

Judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit are hearing the lawsuit that states the NRC illegally halted its consideration of a license for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in 2010.

The lawsuit, of which Aiken County is the named plaintiff, is seeking a court order for the agency to complete its studies of the site. The NRC has argued it halted work on the project after the Obama administration announced it was terminating the project and began zeroing out funding for it.

Aiken County wants the Court of Appeals to order the Department of Energy to continue the licensing proceedings. The NRC said it sees no point in this as the American electorate “returned to office an Executive Branch administration that has stated that it does not intend to seek a license for Yucca Mountain.”

In 2009, President Barack Obama defunded the Yucca Mountain project. He established a Blue Ribbon Committee to look into alternatives to the Nevada geological depository. The commission's report recommended short-term storage sites and concluded that a permanent depository must be located.

One private short-term storage site for spent reactor fuel has recently folded. The consortium of utility companies behind Private Fuel Storage has asked the NRC to scrap its license for a 100-acre repository for waste containers on the Skull Valley Goshute Reservation in Utah.

Private Fuel Storage “has notified us in writing it would like the license terminated,” David McIntyre, an NRC spokesman said in December.

The idea of a temporary facility is currently being discussed with the Savannah River Site being one proposed location.

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