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State officials line up to fight Yucca Mountain site

Despite a setback from a U.S. licensing panel, opponents of a national nuclear waste repository in Nevada say they will press the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to examine new science about potential dangers stemming from erosion at the site.

Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval also reaffirmed his determination to block the Yucca Mountain project and said President Barack Obama personally reassured him during a visit to Washington, D.C., last month that he won’t reconsider his own opposition to Yucca Mountain.

“I will not consider accepting high-level nuclear waste in our state — period,” Sandoval said in a statement on Wednesday.

A three-judge panel of the NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board rejected most of nearly a dozen legal issues the state of Nevada brought in opposition to plans to entomb 77,000 tons of the nation’s most radioactive waste 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Among other things, the Construction Authorization Board on Monday denied Nevada’s contentions that the Department of Energy is required to include a final, detailed design for the repository and surface facilities in its license application.

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said she was disappointed in the board’s ruling, but also “encouraged that the CAB recognizes the serious safety issues inherent in the DOE’s poorly executed license application for the proposed Yucca Mountain project.”

“The EPA standard for the proposed repository requires that the high-level nuclear waste must be isolated from the public …for a million years,” she said in a statement Wednesday.

The hearing process is continuing even though the Obama administration opposes the project and the Energy Department has asked the board to withdraw its license application. The board has denied that request and the NRC has appeared to be divided on the topic.

Last week, a federal appeals court ruled that a lawsuit seeking to relaunch plans for the Yucca Mountain dump can go forward. The DOE has until Jan. 3 to file a brief defending its authority to shut down the site.

Washington state, South Carolina and the National Association of Utility Regulators filed the lawsuit that insists only Congress can decide Yucca Mountain’s fate.

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