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Yucca Mountain Decision Blocked

by Jeff Johnson
July 5, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 27

The Department of Energy’s 2009 move to withdraw its permit application from consideration by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and therefore end the examination of Nevada’s Yucca Mountain site as a potential nuclear waste repository was denied by an NRC review board last week. In a 53-page ruling, NRC’s Atomic Safety & Licensing Board determined that Congress, by enacting the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 and amending it in 1987, had directed DOE to file a construction application for the Yucca Mountain repository. Consequently, the Obama Administration cannot “single-handedly derail” the legislative process, according to the board. It is likely, however, that the board’s decision will be reviewed by NRC as a whole. DOE and others also have the option to present the NRC decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which already has a Yucca Mountain-related legal challenge pending. This related appeal was submitted by opponents of the DOE decision to cancel the repository. DOE has spent 20 years and $9 billion on characterizing the repository’s suitability and submitted an 8,600-page application to NRC in 2008 to move ahead with the site.


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