Aiken County suing feds over Yucca Mountain

Yucca Mountain
Yucca Mountain
FILE - In this April 13, 2006 file photo Pete Vavricka conducts an underground train from the entrance of Yucca Mountain in Nevada. In an effort to win over Republicans and moderate Democrats on climate and energy legislation, President Barack Obama is endorsing nuclear energy like never before, calling for a new generation of nuclear power plants to be built around the country

AIKEN - Aiken County officials have filed suit against the federal government over its plans to pull the plug on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal site in Nevada.


The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Friday, Aiken County Councilman Scott Singer said today.

The county is seeking a temporary restraining order to block plans to terminate the disposal site. At one point, more than 4,000 metric tons of waste from the Savannah River Site was to be shipped to Yucca Mountain.

President Obama's 2011 budget does not include funding for the Yucca Mountain project, which has been on the drawing board for more than 25 years.

"The county's actually taking the lead on this," Singer said today. "The governor is with us on this, the lieutenant governor, Congressman Wilson and others. ... We just couldn't afford to wait."

Singer said all nine county council members were in agreement on Friday's legal action, which he said is unusual.

"I've never seen all nine members as resolute in their conviction," he said. "You couldn't typically get all nine to agree that it is a nice day."

Singer, a Republican, said today that he is confident Attorney General Henry McMaster will also eventually take action on behalf of the state.

Aiken County Councilman Willar Hightower, a Democrat, said he does not believe the move to close Yucca Mountain is for political gain, as some Republicans have alleged. Whatever the reason for the decision, he does not want the nuclear waste to remain in Aiken County, he said.

"I am not sure of the reasoning. There's been a lot of talk about what Obama wants to do, but Obama has not said what his plans are. We just have to make our lawsuit or we'll become the depository."

Hightower said the council has asked for McMaster's support to put more power behind the county's lawsuit.

"We have the backing of the state, so I think we'll get their attention," he said. "It's ridiculous that we've spent the money we've spent for (Yucca Mountain) not to be the depository. It only makes sense."

State Sen. Greg Ryberg, R-Aiken, introduced legislation Wednesday that would require South Carolina's electric utilities to put money designated for a national nuclear waste repository into a state fund instead. State senators unanimously signed on to the bill.

Ryberg said earlier this week that the Obama administration's decision is politically motivated.

"We have 30 years of science and probably millions of man hours and woman hours that have gone into the science of Yucca Mountain as a permanent depository," he said during a news conference Tuesday.

"We probably have 10 minutes in a poll that decided it wasn't good for the sitting (U.S. Senate) majority leader for Yucca Mountain to be pursued," he said, referring to Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada.

Three leaders from the area around Washington state's Hanford waste disposal site also are trying to keep the Yucca Mountain project on track. In a letter to the White House and to Energy Secretary Steven Chu on Thursday, the men say Obama and Chu violated the federal Nuclear Waste Policy Act by abandoning development of Yucca Mountain.

One of the men, Bob Ferguson - an entrepreneur and former Energy Department employee - said his group also may file a lawsuit.

Associated Press and Morris News Service reports were used in this story.





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