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US appellate court denies Nevada's request for a rehearing in Yucca case

A federal appeals court decision stands that ordered the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to restart the licensing process for nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, according to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

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The court took that stance in a one-sentence order it issued Monday that denied the state of Nevada's petition that the entire court rehear the case. The court did not explain why it denied the state's request.

Nevada's state and congressional officials have spent decades fighting the US Department of Energy's plan to site a high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, roughly 95 miles outside of Las Vegas. The proposed disposal facility would be built underground above a major aquifer in an area with earthquake faults and volcanoes, and would not be safe, the state has argued.

Marta Adams, a Nevada senior deputy state attorney general, said in an interview Monday that state officials were discussing the decision and what action, if any, the state should take. The only other legal avenue open to the state would be to petition the US Supreme Court to take up the case.

The NRC, under then-Chairman Gregory Jaczko, suspended its review of the US Department of Energy's Yucca Mountain repository license application in 2011, a year after DOE dismantled the Yucca Mountain program. Jaczko attributed NRC's action to the agency's lack of funds of to complete that work.

The court, however, said August 13 that NRC broke the law when it suspended that congressionally mandated licensing proceeding and ordered the agency to restart that licensing review.

On August 30, the commission sought input from participants in the initial licensing proceeding and NRC staff on exactly what a restarted process would involve and set a September 30 deadline for receiving their input. The commission has been analyzing that information and has not yet issued a decision on how it will proceed.

--Elaine Hiruo,
--Edited by Katharine Fraser,