State Sues Feds Over Yucca Documents

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Nevada filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing the
federal Energy Department of withholding documents that state
officials say will show the planned Yucca Mountain nuclear waste
repository can't be built safely.
The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Reno, is the
fourth federal lawsuit the state has pending against the plan to
bury 77,000 tons of the nation's radioactive waste in Nevada.
The suit seeks the release of a 2004 draft application prepared
by contractors for a Nuclear Regulatory Commission license to open
the repository.
"The federal government is required by law to share its
important Yucca information with the host state, and we are
entitled to such information under the Freedom of Information Act
as well," Nevada Attorney General George Chanos said in a
statement. "But DOE has refused to provide Nevada with this most
important document."
An Energy Department spokesman in Washington, D.C., said the
agency has made public on an Internet network "millions of pages
of information" about the Yucca Mountain project, but was under no
legal obligation to release its draft license application.
"Once the license application is submitted to the (Nuclear
Regulatory Commission), it will be made public," spokesman Craig
Stevens said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press.
"This department and this administration remain committed to
the licensing, construction, and operation of Yucca Mountain as the
nation's permanent geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel,"
Stevens said. "This lawsuit will not deter us."
The state's three-page complaint lists measures that Chanos said
Nevada has taken to secure the draft license application, including
requests by Gov. Kenny Guinn to the secretary of energy and to
President Bush; subpoenaed demands from Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev.;
litigation before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing
hearing board; a Freedom of Information Act request; and Energy
Department administrative appeals.
All those requests were rebuffed, Chanos said.
"What are they trying to hide?" he said. "If the repository
is safe, you'd think they'd be anxious to prove it."
Bob Loux, chief of Nevada's Agency for Nuclear Projects and
administrator of the state fight against the repository, said the
state believes the document will show that the repository cannot
meet Environmental Protection Agency radiation safety standards.
The Energy Department had planned to open the repository by
2010. But it missed a self-imposed deadline to apply for a license
by the end of 2004, and licensing hearings are expected to take
several years.
Last week, the acting director of the Energy Department's Office
of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management that oversees the project
said the site should open in the next decade.
The process has been stalled by budget shortages, opposition by
Nevada lawmakers including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a
controversy over whether scientists falsified quality assurance
data and by a court-ordered rewrite of EPA radiation standards.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit,
which ordered stricter standards, also heard oral arguments last
October and is expected to rule soon on a state claim that the
Energy Department overstepped its authority, violated environmental
rules and needs to rewrite its plan for shipping nuclear waste to
Yucca Mountain.
Nevada also has asked the court to review Nuclear Regulatory
Commission rulings, and another lawsuit is pending in U.S. District
Court in Las Vegas that would deny state groundwater supplies to
the arid desert site, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.