Know Your Business News Update: Yucca Mountain Work Ordered by Court to Restart

Yucca Mountain by NRCgov
Yucca Mountain, a photo by NRCgov on Flickr.

In addition to my regular posts in the Know Your Business Series, today I am starting a sub-series called News Update where I will post on current news events that I find interesting in the nuclear and mining industries.

On August 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a ruling of mandamus to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ordering it to re-start its licensing work on the Yucca Mountain application filed by the Energy Department in 2008 and approve or reject it.

What does this mean, exactly?  

In a sharply worded opinion, the court said the nuclear agency was “simply flouting the law” when it allowed the Obama administration to continue plans to close the proposed waste site 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The action goes against a federal law designating Yucca Mountain as the nation’s nuclear waste repository.

The appeals court said the case has important implications for the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government.

“It is no overstatement to say that our constitutional system of separation of powers would be significantly altered if we were to allow executive and independent agencies to disregard federal law in the manner asserted in this case by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” Kavanaugh wrote. “The commission is simply defying a law enacted by Congress … without any legal basis.”

The appeals court says the NRC must continue to carry out he Nuclear Wast Policy Act of 1982 that instructs the Department of Energy to investigate the creation of a geologic repository for nuclear waste.  There is currently 75,000 metric tons located in 80 different sites in 35 states. 
There is only $11 Million left in the NRC budget for the project and it will take much more than that to complete the processing of the application.  Congress can appropriate additional money but isn’t obligated to do so.  
So we will see where this all goes…