Yucca nuclear waste site proponents push for final court decision

WASHINGTON - Groups that have sued to force the Obama administration to restart the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project are asking federal judges to finalize a decision.

A three-judge panel in August delayed ruling until after Congress completed work on spending bills for 2013, a decision based on the idea that lawmakers might add clarity to the dispute over the Nevada program terminated by President Barack Obama.

But a six-month, "continuing resolution" spending bill that Obama signed into law last Friday says nothing about Yucca Mountain either way, according to court documents filed Friday.

That means the judges can rule now, said attorneys for plaintiffs that include South Carolina and Washington state, Aiken County in South Carolina and Nye County in Nevada.

"This continuing resolution contains no statutory text specific to the issues in this case," attorneys said in their status report. "The parties remain in the same position they were in at oral argument" in May.

The groups are seeking a ruling in the belief they have the upper hand. Judges Brett Kavanaugh and A. Raymond Randolph, two of the three judges who heard the case in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, wrote in August that they probably would rule in favor of the plaintiffs.

Yucca Mountain supporters want the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to be ordered to resume license hearings to bury nuclear waste at the site 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, arguing the commission illegally halted proceedings last year.

The nuclear safety agency said it had stopped the process for lack of funds after the Obama administration stopped budgeting for it. Only $10 million remains, nowhere near enough to conduct meaningful hearings, the agency said.