Appeals Court Shoots Down Obama Administration’s Yucca Delays

In this photo taken April 26, 2011, Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, uses his cell phone to take a photo of the entrance to Yucca Mountain in Mercury, Nev. Republicans claim this stark landscape is the nation's best hope for a national nuclear waste dump. But with Democrats running the White House and Senate, the Yucca Mountain nuclear site has been shuttered with no chance of reopening. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
National Journal
Alex Brown
Aug. 13, 2013, 11:53 a.m.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts to aban­don Yucca Moun­tain as a stor­age site for nuc­le­ar waste were dealt a set­back Tues­day, as a fed­er­al ap­peals court ruled that the Nuc­le­ar Reg­u­lat­ory Com­mis­sion must is­sue a rul­ing on the site’s per­mit ap­plic­a­tion.

The 2-1 rul­ing said the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s dir­ect­ives “vi­ol­ate the law,” which des­ig­nates Yucca Moun­tain as the United States’ nuc­le­ar waste re­pos­it­ory, Re­u­ters re­ports. En­ergy Sec­ret­ary Ern­est Mon­iz has ex­pressed sup­port for find­ing al­tern­at­ives to Yucca Moun­tain, which has been met with mixed re­views in the House and Sen­ate.

In Ju­ly, Mon­iz presen­ted the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s view that wrangling over the long-dis­puted Yucca site has “no end in sight.” The “stale­mate,” he said, “couldn’t con­tin­ue in­def­in­itely.” Mon­iz was ap­poin­ted by Pres­id­ent Obama to serve on a blue-rib­bon com­mis­sion tasked with find­ing al­tern­at­ives to Yucca Moun­tain, and the com­mis­sion’s pro­pos­als have served as a frame­work for Sen­ate le­gis­la­tion that calls for find­ing al­tern­at­ive stor­age fa­cil­it­ies.

House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee Chair­man Fred Up­ton, R-Mich., and En­vir­on­ment and the Eco­nomy Sub­com­mit­tee Chair­man John Shimkus, R-Ill., is­sued a joint state­ment prais­ing the rul­ing. “The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion re­jec­ted the law and pre­ma­turely ter­min­ated the Yucca Moun­tain re­pos­it­ory pro­gram, but Con­gress and the courts have spoken out to pre­vent bil­lions of tax­pay­er dol­lars and three dec­ades of re­search from be­ing squandered,” the pair said.

An­oth­er Re­pub­lic­an, Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, had a far dif­fer­ent re­ac­tion to the re­newed fo­cus on his state as a nuc­le­ar stor­age site. “This rul­ing is an ex­er­cise in fu­til­ity that will ul­ti­mately waste re­sources that could be bet­ter used else­where,” Heller said. “In­stead of con­tinu­ing to try to force Yucca Moun­tain on the people of Nevada, my col­leagues should fo­cus on mov­ing for­ward to­wards a new pro­cess that will al­low for con­sent-based sit­ing.”

Mean­while, Mon­iz and Nevada Gov. Bri­an San­dov­al are meet­ing Tues­day as they con­tin­ue to dis­pute wheth­er the state has agreed to take on stor­age of nuc­le­ar waste.

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