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SC Attorney General: President out of line in canceling Yucca Mountain

Yucca Mountain

(File image: Yucca Mountain)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, March 28, 2011

COLUMBIA, S.C.---It's known as Yucca Mountain, and it's the facility in Nevada where highly-reactive nuclear waste was supposed to be stored from sites across the US, including Savannah River Site.

"If you've ever been to Yucca Mountain and you've visited that repository, there's no doubt in your mind when you leave that that was the right selection," said Chuck Smith.

He's a county councilman for Aiken County, and he's confident with the site, which was selected by the US Congress in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.

"It's a piece of property that's been evaluated and analyzed by the most scientific minds in the world," he said.

Two years ago, President Barack Obama nixed the project, and the United States Department of Energy followed suit, but it wasn't for technical problems.

"They said it wasn't a workable option," said Tom Gottshall, who showed News 12 that exact language in a DOE document. He's a Columbia attorney filing suit against the DOE for Aiken County, where nuclear waste once destined for Yucca Mountain is now piling up.

"The Nuclear Waste Policy Act seems pretty clear what Congress has required," he said.

"The President undid a joint resolution of Congress," added South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson "He just completely undid an act of Congress without going through any of the processes of procedures there."

Wilson and the state of South Carolina are also filing suit against the DOE, and he has a special message to the President.

"Mr. President, if you're not going to give us Yucca Mountain, at least give us our money back. That's what the taxpayers and the rate-payers deserve," he said.

He's talking about the money that has already gone into the nearly 30-year-long project. With interest--about $30 Billion nationally--out of that, about $1.3 Billion from South Carolina. With all that money added to other government fees, Wilson says South Carolina citizens are the real losers.

"It's being felt in their pocketbook. They're paying higher utility bills because the federal government contractually obligated itself to take and store our nuclear waste. Now they've taken our money and left us with the waste," he told News 12.

Wilson also says energy rate-payers pay a tenth-of-a-cent for every kilowatt hour toward the Yucca Mountain Repository project, and he says taxpayers have fronted some huge bills as well.

Arguments were heard in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last week, and Gottshall says the three judges should reach a decision in 60 to 90 days.

The United States Department of Energy did issue a written statement to News 12 on that matter, and it is as follows:

"As Secretary Chu has said consistently, Yucca Mountain is not an option and he looks forward to receiving the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission for the long term management of our spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste. As the Obama Administration takes action to restart the nuclear industry and create new clean energy jobs, we remain committed to ensuring that the federal government fulfills its long-term disposal obligations for nuclear waste."

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