Yucca Mountain still breathing?

Like “American Idol,” cell phone interruptions and conflict in the Middle East, the Yucca Mountain Project just won’t go away.

No matter how many studies expose the flawed science behind it, no matter how many victories scored by Nevada’s congressional delegation and legal team, no matter how much tax money has been wasted on the gaping hole 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, the federal government’s designated site for storage of the country’s high-level nuclear waste lives on.

The latest sure sign: A federal appeals court decided Tuesday that it will hear arguments March 22 in the lawsuit challenging the Department of Energy’s termination of the repository. The states of South Carolina and Washington, a South Carolina county and three Washington state businessmen have challenged the Obama administration’s defunding of the project because it leaves them with thousands of tons of waste the government once promised to remove and store in Nevada.

If the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit sides with the plaintiffs, it could order the Department of Energy to resume work at Yucca Mountain.

Keep in mind that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is still considering the Department of Energy’s license application for the repository, submitted under the George W. Bush administration, even though the Obama administration wants it withdrawn. Last month, a three-judge panel of the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board rejected most of Nevada’s challenges to the Yucca Mountain Project, meaning repository design and safety issues are still being considered even though the project’s work force has been disbanded.

At this point, even the discovery of endangered pupfish, desert tortoises and buckwheat inside the project’s five-mile tunnel wouldn’t completely disqualify it — there are simply too many interests, in number and power, who want the repository opened and their nuclear waste brought here.

Let’s hope the court nixes this latest effort to revive Yucca Mountain. Either way, this should serve as a reminder that news of Yucca Mountain’s demise may have been somewhat exaggerated.

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