We will soon find out what will become of our nation’s nuclear waste, as The United States Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, has set March 22, 2011, to hear oral arguments in a lawsuit against the Department of Energy terminating the Yucca Mountain Project. This appeal arises out of President Obama’s elimination of funding for the proposed Yucca Mountain Project in the White House’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget and on the Department of Energy’s Motion to Withdraw, with prejudice, its license application for a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada filed on March 3, 2010.
Appellants include South Carolina, Washington State, Aiken County, South Carolina, and three Washington State business owners. They assert that the Obama administration overstepped its authority in cutting funding for the Yucca Mountain Project. Appellants also argue that the shutdown leaves states dealing with radioactive material that should be stored in the proposed repository.
The Department of Energy contends that its attempt to withdraw its license was within the Department’s legal authority and the Motion did not injure any party. The Department further contends that the Appellants lack standing because they have not suffered injury. Oral arguments will be heard on this matter, despite the Department’s argument that the federal appeals court lacks jurisdiction because under the primary jurisdiction doctrine a court allows an agency to rule first in a case in which the court and agency have concurrent jurisdiction. The State of Nevada supported the position of the Department of Energy, but is not a party to the appeal.
Plans to store waste in the proposed repository will continue should the Appellant’s prevail, resulting in several concerns for the Nevadans living near the area. Alternatively, if the Court sides with the Department, the federal government will have to consider alternative measures to provide for the permanent disposal of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste