Policy: Environment & Energy

Court says feds acted improperly to shut down planned nuclear waste site

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Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins,Harry Reid,Analysis,Energy and Environment

Federal officials at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission acted improperly when they closed down license hearings for Yucca Mountain, a proposed nuclear waste dumping site in Nevada, the DC Appeals Court ruled Tuesday. President Obama shut down the project in 2009.

The 2-1 ruling by a three judge panel directs NRC officials to reopen the process and continue until either Congress “authoritatively says otherwise” or it runs out of funds. The commission currently has $11 million remaining for the process.

Yucca Mountain has long been a controversial project due to opposition from environmentalists who oppose the nuclear industry as well as due to NIMBY-esque objections from Nevada residents and state officials. The mountain is 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has ardently opposed the project and taken credit for shutting it down by starving it of federal funds. His official Senate website boasts that since 2000 he has stopped eight pro-Yucca bills and 10 pro-Yucca amendments as well as cutting over $1 billion in funding from Bush administration-era budgets for the project.

Indeed, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the court’s decision may not be enough to get the site operational since “any resumption of license hearings will likely be abbreviated before the money runs out, with little likelihood that the Obama administration or Congress will replenish the funds.”

Completing the licensing process would cost an estimated $99 million, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

“With no disrespect to the court, this decision means nothing,” Reid told the Review-Journal. “Yucca Mountain is an afterthought.”

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