Nevada sues Nuclear Regulatory Commission over Yucca Mountain nuclear dump plan

The Associated Press
Saturday April 13, 2002

LAS VEGAS — Nevada is challenging the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s licensing rule for making Yucca Mountain the nation’s nuclear waste dump. 

The state attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Thursday against the regulatory commission’s November ruling. That ruling established health and safety regulations for storing 77,000 tons of the nation’s high-level nuclear waste 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. 

“The Yucca Mountain project will not achieve the geological isolation required by the Environmental Protection Agency,” said Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa in a statement. 

The commission could issue a license for the proposed nuclear waste repository even though it’s fundamentally unsafe from a long-term geologic perspective, said Joe Egan, Nevada’s lead nuclear attorney and a former nuclear engineer. 

“This violates the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, and departs radically from the recommendations of the global scientific community,” he said. 

Officials with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington could not immediately be reached for comment. 

Energy Department officials have said the site is scientifically sound and have expressed confidence that it can store the radioactive waste safely. 

The commission’s licensing rule for the proposed dump requires the federal Energy Department to demonstrate that radioactive emissions will meet the EPA’s emission standards for 10,000 years. 


Egan argued, however, that the radiation emissions are projected to increase steadily after that because of geologic deficiencies discovered by the Department of Energy in the late 1990s. 

Yucca Mountain is no longer expected to isolate radioactive waste if the manmade packages it’s stored in fail after 10,000 years, Egan said. 

The state also is challenging the Energy Department’s use of water, radiation standards, siting guidelines and the site recommendations by Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and President Bush. 

The state has shut off water to Yucca Mountain, but the department switched to a newly built 1-million gallon tank and one small well. 

Gov. Kenny Guinn on Monday vetoed President Bush’s approval of the project, but Congress can override that veto with a majority vote.