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Appeals court throws out lawsuit over Nevada’s Yucca Mountain

A federal appeals court has tossed out a lawsuit by the state of Texas that sought to force a licensing decision on the proposed nuclear waste storage project at Yucca Mountain.

Citing procedural problems with the action, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on June 1 granted the state of Nevada’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed the suit in March 2017, arguing that the federal government had ignored a 2012 deadline to complete the licensing process and seeking an up-or-down vote from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In its filings in the case, Nevada argued that Texas was trying to short-circuit the legislative and licensing processes to “shove a flawed and dangerous nuclear waste dump on Nevada and its citizens.”

Yucca Mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is the only site federal scientists have studied in-depth for burying the estimated 77,000 tons of used nuclear fuel assemblies piling up at nuclear power plants around the nation. The NRC temporarily suspended the licensing process in October 2011 when Congress eliminated funds for it during the Obama administration.

Nevada leaders heralded the ruling in a written statement.

“Today’s decision comes after many hard fought legal efforts to protect Nevadans from the poster-child for federal overreach — a cram down of a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain,” Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt said.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said he was “incredibly pleased” by the ruling.

“Our state has long been united in the fight against Yucca Mountain and, whether in court or in Congress, we will continue to oppose the siting of a nuclear waste repository in our great state,” Sandoval said.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, also praised the decision.

“I’m pleased w/the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to grant NV’s motion to dismiss,” he tweeted.

Nye County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen also was contacted for a statement.

“Only Congress can decide to move the Yucca Mountain Licensing process forward,” he said. “This was a chance for the state of Texas to make a statement about the need for action on nuclear waste. Nevada has lost at every step in the courts so this gives them some positive PR by saying they won a meaningless case that was a foregone conclusion with or without intervention by the state of Nevada.”

“However, the state continues to send millions of dollars to out-of-state law firms to obstruct the hearings for a multi-billion dollar project that will bring jobs and transformational infrastructure projects to Nevada,” Schinhofen said.

Schinhofen, one of the most vocal proponents of Yucca Mountain in Nye County, has said he stands with eight other rural Nevada counties that support vetting the science of Yucca Mountain.

The Pahrump Valley Times contributed to this story.

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