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November 28, 2014

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Yucca Mountain:

State asking that full appeals court hears Yucca Mountain appeal

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BLOOMBERG NEWS FILE

The U.S. Energy Department plans to store spent nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain, an extinct volcano 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 »

The state intends to appeal a court decision that the federal government must go forward with a hearing on licensing Yucca Mountain as a high-level nuclear dump in Nevada.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Marta Adams said today the state will ask that the full membership of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., take up the case decided by a 2-1 vote of a panel of judges.

The appeal will be filed late Thursday or Friday, which is the deadline for submitting the petition, she said. The appeal will note that the split decision was issued on Aug. 13.

Adams said one of the state’s arguments will support the dissent written by Chief Judge Merrick Garland, who wrote it would be a “useless thing” for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to go forward with the hearing, which has been held in abeyance.

Garland said the commission has only $11.1 million to spend on the hearings, but it would take another $99.1 million to complete the process.

President Barack Obama has not included any money in the budget for the federal Department of Energy to obtain a license to put the nuclear dump in Nevada.

The states of South Carolina and Washington, where there are nuclear power plants that are storing waste, filed suit in 2010 to force the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to renew its hearing on licensing Yucca Mountain.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the majority decision that the commission has violated the law passed by Congress that requires hearings on Yucca Mountain to be held. He acknowledged Congress has not appropriated the full amount to conduct the hearings but added:“Congress often appropriates money on a step-by-step basis, especially for long-term projects.”

Congress in 1983 approved the Nuclear Waste Policy Act that told the Department of Energy to pursue a license from the regulatory commission for storage at Yucca Mountain.

The state has launched a fight to stop tons of high-level radioactive waste from being shipped to Nevada. Only Nye County in Nevada supports the dump because of its expected economic benefits.

The state argues that $8 billion has been spent by the federal government, but the tunnels are only 5.1 miles deep and another 42 miles of tunnels needs to be constructed.

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