SEATTLE (Legal Newsline) - Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced a ruling Tuesday by a federal appeals court in an ongoing attempt to build a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia agreed with a claim by Washington state and seven other petitioners that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must act on a license application to build the repository. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy filed an application with the NRC for a license to construct the Yucca Mountain depository. The NRC attempted to discontinue the licensing proceeding after a 2010 announcement by President Barack Obama and the DOE that they would withdraw the application.
There are approximately 56 million gallons of nuclear waste in leaking tanks stored in Hanford, Washington. Much of the waste will be permanently disposed at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation once it is treated. In 2002, Congress designated Yucca Mountain as the nation's sole repository site for deep geologic disposal of high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel. Billions of dollars were spent in Washington to prepare for disposal at Yucca that has yet to occur.
Washington and the other petitioners filed a lawsuit against the NRC in 2011. The effect of Tuesday's ruling is that the NRC must resume the licensing proceeding.
"This ruling is great news for Washington state-especially residents in the tri-cities area near the Hanford Nuclear Reservation-who have been waiting for this project to move forward," Ferguson said. "Our attorneys presented a strong case that the federal government must follow the laws passed by Congress, and the court agreed."
Washington state and the other respondents, the state of South Carolina, Aiken County, S.C., Nye County, Nev., the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, Gary Peterson, Bill Lampson and Bob Ferguson, have long argued the members of the executive branch do not have the authority to abandon Congress' directive and the Yucca Mountain repository.
"We expect a fair and objective processing of the Yucca Mountain licensing application and look forward to a decision on the merits of the application," Ferguson said. "This is what Congress intended and affords the best opportunity for a permanent disposal facility for the nation's high-level radioactive waste."