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April 18, 2014

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State needs $9 million a year more to fight nuclear waste site

CARSON CITY — The state is going to have to spend additional money in the fight to keep a nuclear waste repository out of Nevada, but it’s not known how much more.

Robert Halstead, director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, told the Legislative Interim Finance Committee on Tuesday that he expects a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., within six weeks on the state’s petition asking the court to reconsider its decision ordering hearings on the facility to proceed.

He said he also expects the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to decide by then on going forward with the hearing on the application of the Department of Energy to locate the repository at Yucca Mountain.

In a report to the committee, Halstead said his agency has $2.3 million in federal funds and about $170,000 in state money. The federal funds could not be used for litigation, he said.

More money will be needed by his agency and the state Attorney General’s Office, if the appeals court grants Nevada’s petition that the full 10 members of the court hear the case, which was decided on a 2-1 panel vote, Halstead said.

If the regulatory commission goes forward with the hearing, the two state agencies will “require sufficient state funds to protect Nevada’s vital interests,” the report said.

If there is a full-blown hearing before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, an estimated $9 million would be needed annually — $5 million from the federal government and $2 million each for the Attorney General’s Office and the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects.

The Legislature about $11 million in a contingency fund for emergencies. The legislative committee directed Halstead to report back Dec. 9 with firm estimates on its needs.

There is also another unknown.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is considering a bill that would change the approach to disposal of high-level nuclear waste.

It would allow states to accept radioactive waste on a voluntary basis rather than shipping it to Nevada.

Action on that legislation was scheduled for late this month, but the timetable was delayed by the partial federal shutdown, Halstead said.

If Yucca is built, Halstead’s report said, there would be one to two trucks a week and 110 trainloads a year of nuclear waste traveling within a half mile of 95,000 residents and 34 hotels.

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