Late yesterday, Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against several federal agencies for violating the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA). Since the NWPA’s enactment in 1982, the federal government has wholly failed to complete the licensing process for a permanent nuclear waste storage repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.
The lawsuit, filed directly in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, seeks to force an up or down vote by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on the licensing of Yucca Mountain and to stop the Department of Energy from spending tax dollars on “consent-based” siting. A 2012 court-ordered deadline for a final decision on licensing Yucca Mountain was wholly ignored by the federal government. The Obama administration ignored Congressional requirements, withdrew funding from the Yucca Mountain licensing process, and formed an unlawful Blue Ribbon Commission to identify alternative methods of nuclear waste storage.
“For decades, the federal government has ignored our growing problem of nuclear waste,” Attorney General Paxton said. “The NRC’s inaction on licensing Yucca Mountain subjects the public and the environment to potential dangerous risks from radioactive waste. We do not intend to sit quietly anymore.”
Because the federal government has failed to provide a permanent repository for the nation’s nuclear waste, taxpayers have been tagged with the costs of temporary, above-ground storage of nuclear waste. To date, the federal government has expended $5.3 billion in taxpayer monies to pay for temporary storage of nuclear waste at reactor sites, and recent estimates suggest the Department of Energy’s remaining liabilities will total $23.7 billion, all at taxpayer expense. In the meantime, over $40 billion sits idle in the Nuclear Waste Fund.