The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is "flouting the law" by not conducting a licensing review of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Nevada, a federal appeals court said Tuesday.
The ruling was a victory of sorts for those who want the proposed dump to open but may have little practical impact in the long-running dispute over Yucca Mountain. The Obama administration and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hope to kill the project.
The appeals court, in a 2-1 decision, said the NRC must resume a review of the license application, even though the agency has only enough funding for several weeks of technical work on the license.
Yucca Mountain was designated as the nation’s sole repository for high-level nuclear waste during the George W. Bush administration, which sought to license the facility and begin sending 70 million metric tons of highly radioactive waste to the site from reactors around the nation.
But in September 2010, the NRC, led by Obama appointee Gregory Jaczko, ordered the license review halted, executing Obama’s and Reid’s goal of stopping the project.
In its ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said the order was not supported by the law.
Only $11 million of funding for the license review remains, enough for several weeks of work and far short of the amount necessary to process the application for Yucca Mountain to begin operation.
Since Congress is unlikely to approve additional funding, the ruling appears to be a symbolic victory for the plaintiffs, which were led by South Carolina and Washington state, both of which have large amounts of waste waiting to be buried.