Aiken County files response in Yucca lawsuit

County says shipment deal is already set

 

 

AIKEN --- Aiken County says the Department of Energy can't back out of its agreement to ship nuclear waste to the Yucca Mountain repository unless Congress amends the law or the Nevada site's license is turned down for scientific reasons.

The county filed its 15-page response Friday with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Last week, the Department of Energy and a handful of regulatory agencies said Aiken County was premature in filing a suit seeking a restraining order against the Obama administration's plans to close the site.

Yucca Mountain, which is 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, was being designed to accommodate radioactive material stored at 121 temporary sites in 39 states, including SRS, where high-level wastes are stored in steel cylinders.

It also would have housed 70,000 tons of waste from the nation's 104 commercial reactors, which are generating about 2,000 tons of spent fuel each year.

President Obama's 2011 budget does not include funding for the facility, which has been in the works for more than 25 years.

Nevada has supported DOE's efforts to withdraw the site application and submitted its own petition arguing that it will be harmed if the repository moves forward.

Aiken's response says "DOE cannot be allowed to unilaterally derail the process (...) for the purpose of establishing a long-term solution to the nation's and Aiken County's critical need for long-term storage for high-level nuclear waste."

In addressing DOE's contention that Aiken County failed to establish how DOE's actions would adversely affect it, the filing says Aiken County doesn't need to prove harm because the law establishes Yucca as the only congressionally approved repository.

Aiken County's attorney, Thomas Gottshall, of Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd in Columbia, said the next move lies with the Court of Appeals.

SRS uranium can remain in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY --- About 3,500 tons of waste from Savannah River Site that is awaiting disposal near Salt Lake City meets Utah's health and safety standards, state regulators said Monday.

Utah's Department of Environmental Quality said test results from a Tennessee lab confirmed that the SRS depleted uranium radiation levels don't exceed state standards, so the waste won't have to be shipped elsewhere.

EnergySolutions Inc. is licensed only to accept the lowest classification of low-level radioactive waste at its facility in the desert about 70 miles west of Salt Lake City.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert ordered testing of the depleted uranium in January after an environmental group said some barrels in the shipment likely contained waste that was too hot to be disposed of in the state.

Depleted uranium has come under an unusual amount of scrutiny because, unlike other low-level radioactive waste, it becomes more radioactive over time.

The U.S. Department of Energy has been disposing of depleted uranium from SRS since 2003. More than 10,000 drums of depleted uranium from the South Carolina facility have already been disposed of in Utah, according to the DOE, although that waste was not sampled.

-- Associated Press

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