On Yucca Mountain, Congress is the Policymaking Branch

By July 6, 2010Energy, Regulations

A good description from McClatchy on the judicial rebuff to the Obama Administration’s attempt to unilaterally withdraw the licensing of the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository (which opponents and headline writers insist on calling a “dump”). From “Judges rule Obama can’t close Yucca Mountain nuclear dump“:

Three administrative judges within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruled last week that Congress had designated Yucca Mountain in 1987 to receive highly toxic waste from the Savannah River Site on the S.C.-Georgia border and other complexes that built atom bombs during the Cold War.

The panel found that President Barack Obama and Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a nuclear physicist, lacked the power to close the Yucca repository unilaterally; doing so, it ruled, would require another act of Congress.

“Unless Congress directs otherwise, DOE may not single-handedly derail the legislated decision-making process by withdrawing the (Yucca repository) application. DOE’s motion must therefore be denied,” the judges wrote, adding that the DOE had weakened its arguments by “conceding that the application is not flawed nor the (Yucca) site unsafe.”

Aside from serving to reaffirm the merits of the Yucca Mountain site, the decision by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board sends a useful reminder to the Administration that Congress, not the Executive Branch, is the policymaking branch of government. Somebody tell the EPA!
The timing of the decision will also shape the politics of President Obama’s trip to Nevada on Thursday and Friday to hold an event on the economy and raise campaign funds for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, an opponent of the Yucca Mountain site.
News …

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