State Can Use Federal Funds To Fight Yucca Plan

Yucca Mountain
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Nevada is being told it can spend federal funds, but hasn't gotten the money to prepare for upcoming Nuclear Regulatory Commission hearings on the licensing of a national nuclear waste dump in the state, a state official said Friday.

Bob Loux, head of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, cited a Dec. 23 letter from W. John Arthur, Yucca Mountain project deputy director, saying that federal nuclear waste law does not ban the state from using federal money to prepare for licensing hearings.

"He's at least cleared the way for using the money in the licensing process," Loux said Friday, "but the administration has not put any money in the budget for Nevada's participation.

The state was still awaiting Energy Department or federal Office of Management and Budget action on Nevada Attorney General Brian Sandoval's Dec. 10 demand that the Bush administration restore funding in 2005 for state oversight of the project.

An Energy Department spokesman has said $1 million was on the way to the state and $4 million is coming to local governments for oversight of plans for the Yucca Mountain project.

An Office of Management and Budget official told the Las Vegas Sun for a Friday report that OMB would not discuss the budget until the president issues his funding requests in February.

President Bush's budget for 2004 contained no funding for Nevada oversight of Yucca-related activities, but Congress eventually approved the $1 million.

The Energy Department intends by the end of 2004 to file an application for a license to entomb 77,000 tons of the nation's most radioactive nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Nevada officials say they are confident a federal court will rule in their favor in legal challenges filed to approval by Congress and the Bush administration for the Yucca plan.

But state officials say they also plan to file objections to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing the project.