Yucca heads for the courts

  • Cartoon: Vegas just isn't the same since the Nuke dump

    Mike Smith


With the Senate's 60-39 approval of a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain on July 9, the congressional fight over what to do with the nation's spent nuclear fuel is finished. President Bush signed the bill into law July 23. But Nevada officials and politicians say that an array of legal and procedural hurdles may yet derail the dump.

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, D, a long-standing dump opponent who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, vows to "look very closely at how we fund Yucca Mountain." Reid is also chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which will ultimately decide whether to issue a license for the dump to the Department of Energy.

Reid's political maneuverings will likely only delay the project, but Nevada has four lawsuits pending that challenge the legality of the federal government's decision to move forward with the project. Although decisions on those cases may come within a year, the state attorney general's office says that more legal challenges may be on the way.

The Energy Department is expected to apply to the NRC for a license for the dump by December 2004. The NRC will then have up to four years to decide whether to grant the permit.

Bob Loux, head of Nevada's Agency for Nuclear Projects, says the legislative fight "was kind of a long shot anyway. The hard part is now, when (the Department of Energy) has to be accountable before both the NRC and the courts."

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