South Carolina has renewed its legal effort against the Obama Administration’s decision to close the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump. The state joined Washington, Aiken County and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in a petition against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), arguing the agency has missed its deadline to decide whether the Nevada site can open or not.
Yucca Mountain was selected in 2002 as the Energy Department’s spot to store nuclear waste. Some of the waste is currently held at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, along with commercial reactors around the country. The Energy Department canceled the project in 2009, citing environmental concerns. But, in June 2010, a separate panel, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, said the agency lacked the authority to do that, since Congress originally set up the repository.
However, nothing has happened since then. The June deadline for Yucca Mountain’s license passed without any action by the NRC. Supporters of the project accuse agency head Gregory Jaczko of delaying the project on behalf of Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who Jaczko once worked for.
The lack of action prompted a new petition Friday, which seeks a “writ of mandamus.” In other words, the states and power companies want the district court to order the NRC to make a decision about Yucca Mountain’s license.
“We’re petitioning the court to basically tell the NRC to do what it’s statutorily obligated to do,” said South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.
The groups were unsuccessful in a similar complaint filed last year, as a federal district court ruled in June the claims were not “ripe for judicial determination” because the NRC still had time to make a decision. Wilson said that deadline has now passed.
Part of the contention is that nuclear utilities were required to pay the federal government 0.1 cent for every kilowatt per hour generated by nuclear plants. That fee, which was passed on to ratepayers, was used to construct Yucca Mountain.
“The government has the ratepayers’ money and we still have our nuclear waste,” Wilson said, “Either give us the (Yucca Mountain) repository so the waste can be stored there, or give us our money back.”