Thursday, September 06, 2007

Judge Keeps Water From Yucca Mountain

U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt upheld Nevada's right to enforce its water laws and ruled that Nevada can shut off water that the U.S. Department of Energy says it needs for drilling at the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. The federal government can't ignore state limitations and continue using water for drilling test bore holes near the repository site. The order states that DOE "...has failed to demonstrate the necessity of its voracious water demands." The federal government kept increasing the scope of the drilling and its water needs - from about 15 bore holes to 80 and from 300,000 gallons of water to 3.5 million gallons. Judge Hunt did not decide the merits of the case, filed in August 2002. He denied the federal request for a preliminary injunction that would hindered the state from restricting water to the arid site.

The state will seek a contempt of court order if drilling does not stop. The judge rejected federal claims that scientists needed to test areas around the Yucca site to "meet congressional mandates" and demonstrate the suitability of the site for entombing 77,000 tons of radioactive waste now being stored at nuclear reactors in 39 states. The Energy Department once hoped to open the repository by 2010. But the projected opening date has been pushed back at least to 2017 by legal challenges, budget issues, political opposition and scientific controversies. Center President Norris McDonald is pictured at Yucca Mountain at the exit hole. (Associated Press)

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