Yucca Mountain team may have to stop using state water

The Department of Energy continues to use the state’s water for drilling at the planned Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site while State Engineer Tracy Taylor contemplates resuming his order to halt the practice, a federal spokesman said Friday.

“He did lift the restriction,” said Allen Benson, spokesman for the Energy Department’s Office of Repository Development in Las Vegas. “Until he reinstates it, we will continue to abide by the federal district court order that we operate under.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Jim Gibbons has remained mum on the issue. The Review-Journal last week asked the governor’s communication director about Gibbons’ stance on the matter.

“The governor and his staff are looking into this issue and all of its potential ramifications,” Communications Director Brent Boynton said Friday.

Taylor issued a cease-and-desist order on June 1 against the Energy Department. But he also gave the agency a reprieve on his own order while federal officials submit the information he requested on the drilling program and the water use.

Taylor has said he never granted the Energy Department permission to use Nevada water for drilling bore holes to gather scientific data. Under a court-approved agreement, the Energy Department is only supposed to use the state’s water for flushing toilets, fire suppression and dust control.

The Energy Department does not have approval to use Nevada water for scientific investigation of the site, located 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Bob Loux, Nevada’s Nuclear Projects Agency chief and a critic of the Energy Department’s effort at Yucca Mountain, has said the federal entity is using the water to cool drill bits and collect samples from what will be 80 bore holes by the time the effort is completed.

The samples are being gathered from deep below where the Energy Department wants to put surface facilities for handling and aging spent nuclear fuel. The samples are needed for a license application that the Energy Department intends to submit to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by June 2008.


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