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TOWN HALL EXCLUSIVE: SOUTH CAROLINA ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE QUERIES NRC ON YUCCA SHUTDOWN

The South Carolina Attorney General’s office has written the U.S. Department of Justice and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission querying the NRC’s recent moves to close out the Department of Energy’s license application for the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository.

"In responding, we request that you honor the spirit of our question, rather than splitting any technical hairs in how our question is framed," said the letter, signed by Andrew A. Fitz, senior counsel for the attorney general’s office. "In our opinion, this information is relevant to our mutual obligation to continue to inform the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals of the status of the administrative matter before the NRC."

South Carolina is a principal plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the Department of Energy’s decision to withdraw its application for Yucca. Originally filed by Aiken Country, S.C., home of the Savannah River site, the suit has since been joined by the State of South Carolina and Washington State, home of the Hanford Reservation. Both Savannah River and Hanford house spent fuel and other nuclear by-products that would eventually be stored at Yucca Mountain. The suit alleges that DOE’s decision reneges on the federal government’s obligation to provide a
permanent repository under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.

Fitz asked either the DOJ or the NRC to either confirm of deny reports that NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko has instructed the agency staff to start closing out the DOE application, as reported yesterday by Nuclear Townhall. Jaczko has initiated the action even though the full commission has not yet voted on the Atomic Safety Licensing Board’s decision rejecting the shutting down of Yucca, which was issued on June 29.

The letter is addressed to both Ellen J. Durkee, of the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the Justice Department, and John F. Cordes, Solicitor for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. "We are directing our inquiry to you, rather than the NRC directly, based in the fact that our question relates to a matter in litigation in which you represent the NRC, among other respondents," wrote Fitz.

Testimony in the D.C. lawsuit has been suspended pending a vote by the Commission on whether to accept or reject the ASLB’s finding.

Rumors are that Chairman Jaczko has been unable to assemble the votes for needed for a rebuttal. Jaczko has directed much of his attention toward closing down Yucca since being appointed chairman in 2009 under the championship of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, where the repository is located. Senator Reid is currently locked in a tight race for re-election against Republican challenger Sharon Angle, who holds a 4-point lead according to the latest poll.

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