Wash. AG defends nuclear waste repository

Keith Loria Jun. 3, 2010, 3:20pm


OLYMPIA, Wash. (Legal Newsline) - Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna said Wednesday that his office will continue to battle the federal government's attempt to remove the U.S.'s only Congressionally-approved high-level nuclear waste repository from future consideration.

The attorney general said that since there is no other plan for an alternative site, his office is prepared to oppose any efforts made by the government to permanently remove the facility as a choice.

"Our state currently houses millions of gallons of hazardous waste and we are prepared to treat it for safe disposal," McKenna said.

"Although much of this waste will be permanently disposed of at Hanford, Congress has selected Yucca Mountain as the nation's repository for high-level waste. Roughly $10 billion has been spent pursuing development of this high-level waste repository to date - and billions more have been spent in Washington."

The arguments for Washington were made by Senior Counsel Andy Fitz in the Yucca Mountain licensing proceeding before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Thursday in Las Vegas.

Fitz opposed the move by the federal Department of Energy to withdraw "with prejudice" its license application for the Yucca Mountain radioactive waste repository. The hope is that the move would unilaterally preclude any further consideration of that site as a nuclear waste repository.

The petition set forth by Washington argues that the Nuclear Waste Policy Act requires DOE and the NRC to undertake a licensing process for Yucca Mountain and that, under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, neither the DOE nor the NRC have the legal authority to terminate that licensing process prematurely and in a manner that forever forecloses it from being reopened.

"Washington has made its sacrifices for our country, hosting and overseeing nearly two-thirds of the nation's defense-related radioactive waste," McKenna said.

"Millions of hours and billions of dollars have been spent to research the safe disposal of our treated waste and that of other states at the Yucca Mountain facility. DOE has yet to provide any scientific evidence sufficient to remove Yucca Mountain from consideration. It's time for DOE to live up to its responsibility and follow the law."

Congress designated the Yucca Mountain as the nation's only current repository site for deep geologic disposal of high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel eight years ago.

Congress then directed the DOE to file a license application for the Yucca Mountain site with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and began a formal evaluation and licensing process overseen by the NRC.

Washington is also pursuing legal action in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The court ordered expedited review in that case with oral argument expected in late September.

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