U.S. Energy Department Loses Ruling To Terminate Yucca Mountain Licensing, Nevada To Appeal

CARSON CITY – A ruling by a panel of federal judges saying the U.S. Department of Energy does not have the authority to withdraw its licensing application of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository will be appealed, a Nevada official said yesterday.

Bruce Breslow, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, said the ruling is just one step in a very long process.

“We have a long way to go,” he said. “Nevada respects but disagrees with the licensing board’s decision.”

Breslow said the decision was going to be appealed to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by whichever side lost the ruling. Nevada is in continuing contact with its legal team to determine the best avenue to move forward with the appeal, he said.

Any decision by the NRC will likely be appealed by the losing side as well, Breslow said.

“We’re a long way from getting a final decision,” he said.

The three administrative judges with the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board said the Secretary of Energy conceded that the Yucca Mountain application is not flawed nor the site unsafe, but that the motion to withdraw the application with prejudice is a matter of policy because the Nevada site is, “not a workable option.”

The motion was opposed by several entities, including the states of Washington and South Carolina.

The panel of judges rejected the motion to withdraw, finding that the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, “does not give the secretary the discretion to substitute his policy for the one established by Congress in the NWPA that, at this point, mandates progress toward a merits decision by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on the construction permit.”

The panel said: “Unless Congress directs otherwise, DOE may not single-handedly derail the legislated decision-making process by withdrawing the application.”

Nevada has been fighting the creation of a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, for decades.

Earlier this year, in what was viewed as a final victory for opponents of the project, the Obama Administration sought to end the licensing process for the dump.

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Audio clips:

Breslow says Nevada will appeal:

062910Breslow1 :12 Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”

Breslow says final decision a long ways off:

062910Breslow2 :15 a final decision.”