Nevada files lawsuit against Energy Department over nuclear dump guidelines |

Nevada files lawsuit against Energy Department over nuclear dump guidelines

KEN RITTER, Associated Press Writer

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada sued the federal Energy Department on Monday, challenging the agency’s criteria for deciding whether the nation’s radioactive waste can safely be buried 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The state wants the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington to stop the project before Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham decides whether to recommend Yucca Mountain as a suitable place to bury the nation’s spent nuclear waste, said Bob Loux, director of the Nevada Nuclear Projects Agency.

“The DOE is changing the rules about how they assess whether Yucca Mountain is suitable or not,” Loux said. “We believe the new rules are not in compliance with the law.”

The lawsuit charges the Energy Department has constructed a new plan that relies on engineered barriers such as corrosion-resistant casks — rather than the geology of Yucca Mountain — to contain the intense radioactivity at the site.

But Joe Davis, Energy Department spokesman, said the agency reshaped its guidelines to take advantage of emerging technology. Davis said he had not seen the lawsuit.

Abraham said last week he has not made a decision whether to recommend to President Bush the volcanic ridge for storing 77,000 tons of nuclear waste for 10,000 years or more. Congress has asked for a decision by Feb. 28. Abraham’s aides have said he intends to make a recommendation this winter.

The mountain, at the western edge of the vast Nevada Test Site, is the only place under study.

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