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Nevada files motion intended to 'end Yucca Mountain for good'

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Federal Plutonium Nevada
Yucca Mountain
Posted at 12:40 PM, Sep 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-20 16:01:00-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The State of Nevada is reopening licensing proceedings for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site in an effort to "end the failed project for good," Attorney General Aaron D. Ford announced on Tuesday.

Ford stressed that he opposes the project, as do the vast majority of Nevadans, which has "held the Silver State in limbo for decades."

"Nevadans have long been clear that Yucca Mountain is an untenable and intolerable site for the dumping of nuclear waste, and it is time for this option to finally be rejected," Ford wrote in a prepared statement.

The State intends to argue that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's application to license Yucca Mountain is "fatally flawed and must be denied," Ford stated.

In order to do that, Ford's office filed a motion that would lift the current stay on Yucca Mountain licensing proceedings "for the sole purpose of considering Nevada's motion for summary disposition."

In that motion, Nevada will argue that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's license application be denied "once and for all," Ford stated.

The State's argument for licensing denial centers on three "failures" by the Department of Energy. According to the State, the DOE:

  • failed to obtain necessary control over the land surrounding the proposed repository at Yucca Mountain,
  • failed to obtain necessary restrictions on military aircraft over the area,
  • and failed to address human-caused climate change in its licensing application for the proposed repository.

"My office will fight with every legal option at our disposal to ensure that Nevada does not become the dumping site for this country's nuclear waste," Ford stated. "We will protect this state, its environment and its inhabitants with every tool we have."

Nevada's battle with the federal government over Yucca Mountain started decades ago. The site, approximately 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, was first designated as a nuclear waste repository in 1987. It remains empty, largely as a result of adamant and longstanding efforts of elected officials from both parties who've leveraged their political clout to keep it that way.

IN-DEPTH: History of Yucca Mountain | 1982-2018

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's own safety evaluations determined the site meets all of the technical and safety requirements for disposing of nuclear waste. Nevada's elected officials have a laundry list of concerns about the project, aside from its notorious unpopularity among their constituents. Ford listed a few of those in his announcement Tuesday, "as just some of the reasons why the project should never come to fruition," including:

  • seismic and volcanic activity in the area
  • hydrologic concerns
  • fears over the transportation of nuclear waste through Las Vegas
  • potential national security issues

Ford's announcement comes on the heels of more nuclear waste news. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) recently shared that weapons-grade plutonium shipped from South Carolina to Nevada was removed after several years of efforts to oppose the shipment.

PLUTONIUM REMOVED: Weapons-grade plutonium secretly sent to Nevada removed

Cortez Masto endorsed the effort announced by Ford on Tuesday.

"I've opposed every attempt to revive the failed Yucca Mountain project, and it's time we take this site off the table once and for all," she wrote on Twitter. "This site is bade for our economy and our health, and I support Nevada's efforts to finally end the debate on Yucca Mountain."

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV01) also voiced their support.

"For years, I've been fighting alongside our delegation to prevent Nevada from becoming the nation's nuclear waste dumping ground," Rosen wrote on Twitter. "I strongly support Nevada's actions to finally put an end to Yucca Mountain and block future efforts to try to revive this ill-conceived project."

"Nevada doesn't use nuclear energy; we don't produce nuclear waste; and we shouldn't be required to store it," Titus stated on Twitter. "The State's motion is a step in the right direction toward putting an end to Yucca Mountain once and for all."