Nevada wants official removed from Yucca Mountain process

This April 9, 2015, file photo shows the south portal of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump near Mercury.

This April 9, 2015, file photo shows the south portal of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump near Mercury.

Nevada’s office of Nuclear Projects has called on David Wright to recuse himself from any further proceedings involving the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump.

Wright is a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But Bob Halstead, executive director of the Governor’s Agency for Nuclear Projects, says he’s biased.

“Your participation in the Yucca Mountain licensing process would violate Nevada’s due process right to a neutral and unbiased decision-maker,” Halstead wrote in his formal request for Wright’s removal.

He cited Wright’s participation as an adviser to South Carolina as a member of that state’s Public Service Commission and support for the move by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners to force the Department of Energy to continue with the licensing process, which DoE shut down after the budget for licensing was cut by the Obama administration.

Halstead pointed to Wright’s “frequent and long-standing expressions of opinion that a repository at Yucca Mountain is necessary and will be safe, your criticism of Nevada for daring to oppose the Yucca Mountain repository and your formation of and active participation in at least one organization whose sole focus was the advancement and completion of the Yucca Mountain repository.”

Wright issued a response rejecting Halstead’s call for his recusal, saying his involvement in the legal battle was solely related to the legal question of whether energy officials could withdraw the licensing application. A Washington, D.C., court later ruled DoE must proceed with licensing.

“I do not believe that my actions are disqualifying because they are not germane to the ultimate question of my impartiality about the issues at stake before the commission should the license application adjudication be restarted,” Wright wrote.

Halstead said Wright’s refusal to pull himself out of the process will violate Nevada’s legal rights.

“If the licensing proceeding should ever resume and proceed to completion, judicial remedies will be available to Nevada to reverse every commission decision on which commissioner Wright participated,” Halstead said.

Nevada has been fighting the Yucca Mountain dumpsite since it was first proposed and voted by Congress as the only site that would be considered for high level nuclear waste in 1987, 31 years ago. The plan was to permanently store some 78,000 tons of high level waste at the site 75 miles north of Las Vegas.

The project was effectively killed by President Obama, who defunded the licensing process. But it has since been brought back to life by President Trump who put $120 million in his budget along with $47.7 million for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in his budget.

Congress has approved no funding for the project this year.


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