Gambling on the Courts
Armed with $4 million, the state of Nevada is preparing for the legal battle of a lifetime: the effort to keep the federal government from establishing a high-level radioactive waste dump at Yucca Mountain. Charles Cooper, one member of the high-profile legal team retained by the state, said yesterday that he was “very encouraged” about Nevada’s prospects of prevailing in court. The team of attorneys has declined to reveal its plan, but options include challenging the constitutionality of the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act, which provides the framework for siting and developing nuclear waste dumps. Even without a constitutional challenge, though, the dump could be derailed by the courts: other pending legal actions against Yucca Mountain include lawsuits against the U.S. EPA over groundwater protection, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission over licensing and safety issues, the Department of Energy over site suitability rules and the project’s environmental impact statement, as well as against President Bush and DOE Secretary Spencer Abraham for backing the Yucca site in the face of scientific uncertainty about its safety.