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Wash. sues to stop feds from abandoning Yucca

TUESDAY, APRIL 13, 2010, 12:05 P.M.

YAKIMA — Washington state has filed suit to stop the federal government from permanently abandoning the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, marking the latest clash in a long-standing dispute over where the nation’s nastiest radioactive waste should be stored.

Waste and spent nuclear fuel from south-central Washington’s Tri-Cities, site of the highly contaminated Hanford nuclear reservation and the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear plant, had long been intended to go to Yucca Mountain.

The U.S. Department of Energy has said the proposed desert mountain repository 90 miles from Las Vegas is no longer considered an option for radioactive waste storage. It has a motion pending to withdraw its license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission “with prejudice,” which would permanently remove it from consideration as the nation’s radioactive waste repository.

A spokeswoman for state Attorney General Rob McKenna said Tuesday that the state filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., to block the Energy Department’s plans. McKenna’s office gave notice last month that the state would sue.

Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire has said she supports the decision and that no option should permanently be removed from the table.

The federal government created Hanford in the 1940s as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. Today, it is the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site.

Civil leaders in the Tri-Cities also have filed a federal lawsuit against the Energy Department, saying its decision to abandon Yucca Mountain violates the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.

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