Nevada fights Texas lawsuit to restart Yucca

The Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects and state Attorney General Adam Laxalt want to intervene in a lawsuit that seeks to restart Yucca Mountain.

The lawsuit, filed in March by the state of Texas in federal court, seeks to restart the stalled Yucca Mountain by forcing the federal government to cut short the Yucca Mountain licensing process and cancel the Department of Energy’s consent-based siting initiative for nuclear facilities.

The lawsuit alleged that the federal government failed to comply with the Nuclear Waste Policy Act that obligated the DOE to collect fees from nuclear power generators to build a permanent repository. It said that while the Department of the Treasury collected the funds and now holds them in what is known as the Nuclear Waste Fund, the federal government failed to comply with the statutory scheme.

“To be clear, this case is not about the process taking longer than expected. It’s about the executive branch dragging its feet through every stage of the process, and halting the project despite a congressional mandate to move forward,” the lawsuit said.

In the state of Nevada’s motion to intervene filed on Wednesday, Laxalt asked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to approve Nevada as a party in the case.

SANDOVAL REACTION

Nevada’s action is the first in a series of steps that will be taken over the next few weeks and months “to protect Nevadans from efforts to resurrect the Yucca Mountain repository project,” according to the news release issued by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval.

“The Texas petition directly injures Nevada as the target state of the proposed Yucca Mountain repository,” officials said in a news release. “Nevada has a vital interest in the subject of this petition and will be directly and materially affected by the outcome. Intervention is the only method through which Nevada can adequately preserve its ability to participate effectively in the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) adjudicatory proceeding while protecting its citizens and its sovereign right to control what takes place within its borders.”

Sandoval said the Texas petition would “drastically” diminish Nevada’s ability to present its case against Yucca Mountain.

“Science has confirmed that Yucca Mountain is incapable of safe storage of the world’s most toxic substance. The state of Nevada is prepared to successfully defeat this dangerous and ill-conceived project at every opportunity and in any venue,” Sandoval said.

EXPERTS AT WORK

Laxalt said that attorneys within Solicitor General’s Office, the Natural Resources Division and outside experts are dedicating time and resources to “ensure Nevada’s voice is heard and best interests are protected.”

“Any and all attempts to store unwanted nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain will be met with relentless resistance from my office,” Laxalt said. “And we will continue to fight the federal government’s dumping of nuclear waste within our borders, an unprecedented infringement of state sovereignty.”

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has two pending applications with consent from Texas and New Mexico for interim high-level nuclear waste facilities.

“This sign of willingness should not be ignored, but rather fostered by the administration. A repository in a consenting state will save the taxpayers hundreds of millions in legal fees and project delays,” Nevada officials said in a press release.

COUNTERING TEXAS SUIT

The lawsuit filed by Texas seeks to force the NRC to complete the Yucca Mountain licensing proceeding in 12 months or less.

Nevada officials argued that if the lawsuit is successful, it would prevent Nevada from fully presenting its case, based on 218 admitted technical and legal challenges that question the safety of Yucca Mountain.

Nevada’s motion to intervene notes that the state has compelling interest “in protecting the health and safety of its citizens from radiological injuries and in protecting its lands and groundwater from radioactive contamination.”

Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects Director Robert Halstead said Yucca Mountain would rank among “the largest and most irreversible” public projects in history.

“In addition to the lands at and around Yucca Mountain itself, public lands in a corridor hundreds of miles long would have to be withdrawn so that nuclear waste could be transported to Yucca Mountain for disposal,” Halstead said.

The motion also notes that transporting nuclear waste across Nevada poses substantial risks to the state, will increase radiation exposure to workers and the general public, and create the risk of severe accidents and sabotage incidents.

In addition to that, Nevada would face threat from transportation and disposal of high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel which could result in losses of jobs, losses of property values and losses of tax revenues.

“These injuries to Nevada would all be avoided if DOE’s Yucca Mountain project were to be terminated,” Halstead said.

Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at dsokolova@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77

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