Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Court Rules NRC Must 'Approve or Deny' Yucca Mountain

Norris McDonald at Yucca Mountain in 2005
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday ruled that the Obama administration broke the law by delaying a decision on using the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada as a permanent nuclear waste dump.

In a 2-1 decision,  the court said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) violated a 1982 federal law by halting its consideration of the project. It ordered the NRC to deny or approve the Energy Department’s application to store nuclear waste at the site.

The Center supports Yucca Mountain.

Supperters of Yucca Mountain as the national repository for the nations nuclear waste have claimed that President Obama’s 2010 decision to pull the plug on the reviews ran afoul of a law that outlines Yucca as the nation's sole waste storage site.  Writing for the majority, Judge Brett Kavanaugh said that the
"policy disagreement with Congress's decision about nuclear waste storage is not a lawful ground for the for the Commission to decline to continue the congressionally mandated licensing process.  Federal agencies may not ignore statutory mandates simply because Congress has not yet appropriated all of the money necessary to complete a project,"
The Obama administration, including former NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko, contended that the NRC didn’t have the funds to complete the Yucca review. The court ruled that the NRC's argument regarding funding was invalid, and said federal law mandates that the administration rule on Yucca.

The ruling could generate a challenge from the administration, which has endorsed the findings of an independent expert panel convened by Obama that said options other than Yucca should be explored for storing nuclear waste.  (The Hill, 8/13/2013)

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