Rob McKenna (R)

OLYMPIA, Wash. (Legal Newsline)-Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna is suing the Obama administration over a move to jettison plans for a nuclear waste repository in the remote Nevada desert.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, is in response to the U.S. Department of Energy's move to withdraw its Yucca Mountain application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Energy Department is seeking to permanently remove the Nevada site from consideration as a radioactive waste repository, where 77,000 tons of radioactive waste would be stored.

"DOE simply does not have the authority to unilaterally and forever terminate the Yucca Mountain project with no alternatives and no valid reason," McKenna said.

The Republican attorney general filed his lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The lawsuit follows McKenna's motion to intervene in the licensing proceeding before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board.

In court papers, he alleges that the Energy Department's decision to withdraw the Yucca Mountain application violates the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, which created a timetable and procedure for establishing a permanent underground repository for high-level radioactive waste.

"Congress selected Yucca Mountain as the nation's repository and government has spent roughly $10 billion on the project," McKenna said. "As we indicated previously, the nation has no ready alternatives to deep geologic disposal nor does it have any ready alternatives to Yucca Mountain as a repository site."

The proposal to build a nuclear waste depository north of Las Vegas is decades behind schedule, causing nuclear waste to pile up at commercial power plants in 39 states.

Since Congress finally approved the Yucca Mountain project in 2002, Nevada officials, including U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, have tried to block the project, which was originally planned to open in 1996.

McKenna is co-chair of National Association of Attorneys General Environment and Energy Committee.

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