McMaster says that by the end of February, he will have begun legal action to make sure a Nevada repository stays open to receive thousands of tons of nuclear waste. A large part of that waste is slated to come from the Savannah River Site, a former weapons plant in Aiken County.
McMaster says he is trying two legal avenues: First, asking to intervene in proceedings with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission:
That is, to get into the process where the Department of Energy has now been instructed by the Administration, the Obama Administration, to withdraw their petition to crank up the Yucca Mountain facility. So we want to oppose that, and in order to do that we need to be a party to the proceedings.”
The other thing that we are doing is that we are going to seek a temporary restraining order, or an injunction, or something that they call a mandamus that is in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is not the usual starting place for action in federal court, but under the nuclear power rules, that’s where you start.
Congressman Jim Cyburn says that the President has left the Nevada repository out of the budget and it may yet be funded. McMaster says the president’s stopping the licensing process is more bothersome to him.
“Congress can still put it in the budget, but even so, the President has directed the Department of Energy, which is a cabinet agency which he directs, to tell them to stand down and withdraw their application from the nuclear regulator commission. That’s got nothing to do with the budget,” McMaster counters.
McMaster says that public safety is another part of his concern. Even with SRS having what he calls top-notch security.
“And it is remarkable the kind of public safety procedures that they have implemented. But still, the storage facilities that they have on site are not the equivalent to those that are on Yucca Mountain. And we need to go on and remove this waste that was intended to go to Yucca mountain, to Yucca Mountain.
The Aiken County Council has begun its own legal battle over redirecting this nuclear waste storage. McMaster says he is working with them through this complex network of laws and regulations. He says he has no legal grounds to fight, however, if Congress wants to change its mind
“After putting over $1o billion into it, that’s billion, not million, that would be within their discretion to pass a new law just to cancel out all of those years of work. But, it’s not up to the administration as we read the law, to simply reverse field, contrary to the established federal law.”