Appeals court to hear Yucca arguments

Oral arguments in a lawsuit aimed at forcing the government to complete the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository will be heard today in the Washington, D.C., Circuit Court of Appeals.

"In this case, existing law is very clear that Congress has mandated that the nation's high level nuclear waste shall be stored at the Yucca Mountain facility in Nevada," said communications director Mark Plowden, of the South Carolina Attorney General's Office. "All of the states are in agreement, with the exception of Nevada."

The Yucca Mountain project near Las Vegas was being designed to accommodate 70,000 tons of waste from the nation's 104 commercial reactors -- including those at Plant Vogtle in Georgia -- which are generating about 2,000 tons of spent fuel each year. It was also to be the disposal site for radioactive material from 121 temporary sites, including Savannah River Site.

The project was halted more than a year ago when U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced he would create a panel to explore other options. He established the 15-member Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future to explore safe, effective nuclear waste alternatives.

The Court of Appeals will hear arguments that the law requires the Yucca Mountain facility to be completed and that the administration must follow the dictates of Congress, Plowden said.

South Carolina and Aiken County brought the original jurisdiction petition, as did the state of Washington, and three of its citizens. Ken Woodington is representing South Carolina. Tom Gottshall is representing Aiken.