VIRGINIA QUESTIONS NUCLEAR WASTE FUND PAYMENTS TO FEDS
SEPTEMBER 15, 1995
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on April 30 ruled that petitions filed in the nuclear waste storage lawsuit against the Department of Energy will be treated as petitions to compel the department to comply with a July 1996 court decision ordering the DOE to store nuclear waste beginning Jan. 31, 1998.
Meanwhile, a tunnel boring machine broke through the earth's surface at Yucca Mountain, Nevada (em the proposed storage site for the spent nuclear waste (em completing a five-mile dig that went as deep as 1,400 feet beneath the crest of the mountain.
The petitioners of the suit against DOE, which includes 49 state agencies and 42 utilities, seek to protect payments into the Nuclear Waste Fund. The lawsuits asked the federal court to stop payments into the nuclear waste fund, to escrow more than $600 million in nuclear waste fees collected annually and for other remedies.
But the court put the case on a fast-track schedule and limited filings as it moved on a course to force the DOE to take nuclear waste in 1998.
"This is the second time in only six weeks that the court has taken very unusual and positive steps in our suit against DOE," said Don Keskey of the Michigan Attorney General's Office, and lead attorney for the state's lawsuit against DOE.
Advocates for use of Yucca Mountain as a permanent storage site for nuclear waste pointed to the completion of the excavation on April 25 as a tremendous achievement. "Setting aside for a moment the fact that DOE's disposal program is 15 years behind schedule, this particular engineering phase of the Yucca Mountain study is one government project that actually is being completed ahead of schedule," said Nuclear Energy Institute Vice President John Kane.
"It also provides tangible evidence that one of the Clinton Administration's primary arguments against the Nuclear Waste Policy Act pending in Congress is hollow," he added. (That act allowing for temporary nuclear waste storage at the Nevada Test Site was passed by the Senate on April 15. The bill awaits House action.)
The tunnel boring machine began digging the 25-foot diameter tunnel beneath Yucca Mountain in September 1994. The excavation made possible an array of studies of geology, hydrology, thermal issues and other sciences.
Under a law passed in 1982, the Department of Energy is obligated to begin storing used nuclear fuel by the end of January 1998. But DOE has given notice to the nation's nuclear utilities that it intends to default on its obligation to accept the used fuel.
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