South Carolina to sue government over nuclear waste decision

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster said on Wednesday he would take legal action to stop President Barack Obama from dropping plans to build a nuclear waste storage facility in Nevada.

Last month the Obama administration announced it was stopping the license application for a long-planned nuclear waste storage site at Yucca Mountain near Las Vegas, which is opposed by environmental groups.

McMaster said that he would file a petition to intervene with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission this week and plans to take additional legal action in appellate courts in Washington and Virginia on Friday.

“South Carolina has a vested interest in insuring that the Yucca Mountain licensing proceedings continue, so that the spent fuel and other nuclear material now being temporarily stored in our state will be safely placed in the Yucca Mountain repository, as mandated by the United States Congress,” McMaster said in a statement.

The Yucca Mountain site was first chosen by Congress in 1987 as a planned repository for much of the nation’s high level radioactive waste that is currently stored at dozens of locations around the country including South Carolina’s Savannah River Site.

Reached for comment, McMaster said he planned to file either a temporary restraining order, a writ of mandamus, or both, to either the District of Columbia Court of Appeals or the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., on Friday.

“There seems to be no other alternative ... The Obama administration is attempting to stop a process that was begun many years ago and was confirmed and ordered by federal law,” he said.

“We have seven nuclear power plants in South Carolina. The nuclear waste is still there and in temporary storage and has been there since the beginning ... Our position is it ought to go to Yucca Mountain.”

Writing by Harriet McLeod; editing by Tim Gaynor and Marguerita Choy