Nevada's Objection to Nuke Dump Application Tossed

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Regulators have rejected a petition by the state of Nevada against the federal government's license application for a nuclear waste dump 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The Energy Department filed the application for a license to build the Yucca Mountain dump June 3. The next day Nevada filed a petition asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to reject it.

The move was in keeping with Nevada's persistent opposition to the planned 77,000-ton underground dump, which Congress approved in
2002 as the first national repository for radioactive waste.

Nevada raised various objections to the 8,600-page license application, including claiming it lacked necessary information on radiation safety standards and other issues. A Nevada resident and dump opponent, Jacob Paz, filed a separate petition opposing the Energy Department's application.

In an order Friday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission rejected both petitions, saying they were premature because the commission hasn't yet decided whether to "docket" the license application, or formally accept it for review.

That decision should be made sometime in September and is based on whether the application is complete enough to be considered. It's a separate decision from determining whether to accept or reject the license application, which is expected to be a four-year process for the commission.

If the application is docketed, a hearing notice will be published and the commission will consider petitions from opponents, Friday's order said.

The dump was originally supposed to open in 1998 but the best possible target date is now 2020. The Energy Department recently revised the project's total cost estimate up from $57.5 billion to $96.2 billion.

There was partial dissent to Friday's order from one of the commissioners, Gregory Jaczko, a former aide to Senate Majority
Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Reid is a leading dump opponent.

Jaczko agreed with the other three commissioners that the challenging petitions were premature. But he wrote that the commissioners' order assumed the license application could be docketed, a move he said shouldn't happen until the Environmental Protection Agency completes a required public radiation exposure standard. That document is still pending.

Nevada lawmakers said they would continue fighting the dump.

"This ruling does not change our opposition to the Bush-McCain Yucca Mountain plan or eliminate the dangers to 50 million Americans from decades of waste shipments," said Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., in a statement.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)