In a split decision, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered that a lawsuit challenging the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC ’s) decision to stop licensing work on the Yucca Mountain radioactive waste repository be held in abeyance until Congress addresses appropriations for the repository. In re Aiken Cnty., No. 11-1271 (D.C. Cir. 8/3/12).  

Development of the Yucca Mountain site as a permanent repository for spent fuel from commercial power plants was halted by the Department of Energy (DOE ), which then appointed a commission to recommend alternatives for radioactive waste disposal. NRC has $10.4 million to start the Yucca Mountain licensing work, but, while the Nuclear Waste Policy Act requires the agency to work on the project, lacks sufficient appropriated funds to complete action on the licensing application. Two states, two counties, three individuals, and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners filed petitions seeking a writ of mandamus ordering the NRC to resume its review of DOE ’s operating license application.  

In a 2-1 decision, the court ordered the parties to “file no later than December 14, 2012, updates on the status of Fiscal Year 2013 appropriations with respect to the issues presented.” The dissenting judge found no reason to delay issuing a writ of mandamus to force the NRC back to work.