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July 31, 2014

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Putting end to Yucca Mountain project ‘within reach,’ state commission says

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Yucca Mountain is located about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Yucca Mountain

The U.S. Energy Department plans to store spent nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain, an extinct volcano about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

CARSON CITY — The state says it is close to winning its long battle to stop high-level nuclear waste from being stored at Yucca Mountain.

The Nevada Commission on Nuclear Waste has submitted its 2012 report to Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Nevada Legislature suggesting “success is within reach” regarding the fight against nuclear waste storage.

The U.S. Department of Energy has withdrawn its application for Yucca Mountain, but there is a lawsuit pending in federal court in Washington, D.C., to force the licensing to go forward.

The suit was filed by Nye County; the states of Washington and South Carolina; Aiken County, S.C.; the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners; and three individuals from Washington state.

If the petition is granted, the state would be forced to “engage in a long, complex and extremely expensive intervention” to block the license, the commission said. A decision by the court has been put on hold until Congress acts.

In September, Congress passed and the president signed a continuing budget resolution that did not contain any money for licensing Yucca Mountain.

“Nevada has never been closer to finally prevailing in the decades-long fight to stop the defective Yucca Mountain project once and for all,” the commission’s report said.

But former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Richard Bryan, chairman of the commission, said that “at the same time, the state remains at considerable risk due to the legal and political forces that govern the national nuclear waste program.”

The federal government has spent more than $8 billion for buildings and diggings tunnels in which the waste would be stored, and alternatives must be considered for its use, the commission said.

One of the most promising alternative uses would involve defense, homeland security and information technology, which might involve data storage and emergency communications, the commission said.

Other possible uses could be a training center for first responders or a site for unmanned aerial vehicles.

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