Federal Lawyers Defend Water Use at Nevada's Yucca Mountain

In advance of a scheduled court Wednesday hearing, Justice Department lawyers argue that the federal Department of Energy didn't violate a court-approved agreement in using Nevada water during drilling near the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear dump.

The lawyers made the argument in papers filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas in efforts to block the state engineer's cease-and-desist order against the water use.

The lawyers say the state engineer is wrong in maintaining that the water use is governed exclusively by state law. They also cite the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, arguing it prohibits state interference with DOE's water use on federal land.

Scientists at Yucca Mountain have continued to use water from two wells despite state Engineer Tracy Taylor's cease-and-desist order reinstated after he determined that it's not in Nevada's interest to allow the water to be used in drilling bore holes.

Information developed by the drilling is needed for a license application that DOE plans to submit to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by June 2008.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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