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Environment and Planning
00000179-65ef-d8e2-a9ff-f5ef8d430000The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington was home to Native Americans and later to settlers. It turned into an top-secret military workhorse during World War II and the Cold War. Now, it’s one of the most pressing and complex environmental cleanup challenges humanity is facing in the world.This remote area in southeast Washington is where the federal government made plutonium for bombs during WWII and the Cold War. It’s now home to some of the most toxic contamination on earth, a witch’s brew of chemicals, radioactive waste and defunct structures. In central Hanford, leaking underground tanks full of radioactive sludge await a permanent solution. Meanwhile, a massive $12 billion waste treatment plant, designed to bind up that tank waste into more stable glass logs, has a troubled history.00000179-65ef-d8e2-a9ff-f5ef8d440000Anna King is public radio's correspondent in Richland, Washington, covering the seemingly endless complexities of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Federal Judge: Yucca Mountain Licensing Must Move Forward

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Department of Energy. File photo of Yucca Mountain

Washington’s state Attorney General is praising an appeals court decision on a nuclear waste repository in Nevada. The ruling requires the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to get the licensing process back on track for Yucca Mountain.

The state of Washington wants Yucca Mountain to be the permanent waste repository for radioactive waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. But President Obama buried the project because of opposition from Nevada’s political leaders.

Now, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has ruled that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has to continue forward with the licensing of the facility.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson says there’s no timetable for a final decision on Yucca Mountain, but the court’s ruling "puts it back on track." Ferguson adds, "That doesn’t mean that Yucca Mountain will be the repository for our nuclear waste here at Hanford, but it puts that process back on track, a fair process on whether it is the right spot.”

Even if the decision revives the relicensing process, it’s not clear that the Obama Administration has plans to complete the project. And the repository still faces opposition from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Yucca Mountain case opinion - US Courts
Press release - Office of the Attorney General 
Fact Sheet on Licensing Yucca Mountain - Nuclear Regulatory Commission