South Carolina officials are praising a decision by a federal court last week to move forward with a lawsuit that would prevent the nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain from being scrapped.
The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a hold on a lawsuit that claims the Obama Administration does not have the power to stop the site’s construction. The court had been waiting for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to decide if the Energy Department could withdraw a license application for Yucca Mountain.
The case ground to a halt in June after a licensing panel said the Energy Department did not have the authority, but the NRC still has not made a decision.
David Wright works for the South Carolina Public Service Commission, and has been involved with the lawsuit. He says the case has been held up long enough.
Our ratepayers, through their utility bills, have been paying for this for many, many, many years. We’re not getting our money’s worth. It’s time to get moving.
Wright is a former co-chair of the Yucca Mountain Task Force, and is a member of the National Association Regulatory Utility Commissioners, which has also sued to keep Yucca Mountain open. He says a federal law only gives Congress, not federal agencies, the ability to stop the site from moving forward.
Supporters of closing Yucca Mountain say safety issues should cause the government to hold off on its plan to build an underground dump at the Nevada site.
Yucca Mountain was supposed to receive nuclear waste currently being kept at the Savannah River Site, but that arrangement would have stopped if the Energy Department’s withdrawal was successful. Under an agreement, nuclear power utilities would pay 0.1 cents for every kilowatt per hour generated by nuclear plants, in order to build the Yucca Mountain site.
Wright says utilities then passed on the costs to customers, so withdrawing the application means ratepayers paid for nothing.
Here we are. They have our money, and we still have their waste.
State Attorney General Henry McMaster and Aiken County have joined several other states and utility groups in their suits to keep the site open.
South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson, whose district includes the Savannah River Site, praised the court’s decision on the House floor Wednesday.
The President’s decision to abandon this project was editorially condemned as breathtakingly irresponsible… The action poses a security risk at dozens of nuclear waste disposal sites across the country. It means that vast amounts of nuclear waste will sit idle at the Savannah River Site. This is unacceptable.
The court will begin hearings in early 2011.