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August 28, 2015

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Nevada suffers setback in battle over Yucca Mountain

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CARSON CITY – In a setback for Nevada, a federal licensing board has refused arguments that the application of the U.S. Department of Energy to build a high-level nuclear dump at Yucca Mountain was legally invalid.

“We did not win on that issue,” says Bruce Breslow, head of Nevada’s Nuclear Projects Office. He compared it to a pre-trial summary judgment in a civil case.

The Atomic Safety Licensing Board rejected 11 legal arguments by Nevada that the application of the energy department was defective.

But he said there are hundreds of other issues to be decided. President Obama has directed the energy department to back down on its application.

The rejection by the licensing board is on appeal to the full Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said.

While rejecting the legal arguments, the licensing board says it will still consider safety issues over whether the energy department should abandon Yucca Mountain. There has not been any work at the site for a year, Breslow said.

Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval said he was disappointed by the ruling but was encouraged the licensing board would examine the safety concerns.

The governor-elect said the licensing board “made special note of Nevada’s scientific claim that erosion could cause the surface of Yucca Mountain to completely erode during the regulatory period as prescribed by the Environmental Protection Agency, leaving the state unprotected by the mountain’s geology in the future.”

Masto said the standard of the EPA requires “that the high level nuclear waste must be isolated from the public and accessible environment for a million years.” She said Obama set up a commission to find better ways for storing high-level nuclear waste, which is now located at power plants in this country.

The governor-elect said he would be willing to use Yucca Mountain for research for non-nuclear purposes since there has been a large sum of money invested in the project.

Both he and Masto said they wouldn't give up the fight to stop the piling of high-level nuclear waste at Yucca.

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