Lawmakers issue protest on Yucca decision

Nearly 100 lawmakers, mostly Republicans, are urging Energy Secretary Steven Chu to stop moving forward on shuttering the nuclear waste repository site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

The Obama administration has yanked funding for the project, which has been in the works for more than two decades, and let go employees who worked at the site.

In a harshly worded letter sent Tuesday, the lawmakers -- led by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash. -- assert that the Energy Department is violating the Nuclear Waste Repository Policy Act, which in 1987 designated Yucca Mountain as the only option for the nation's nuclear waste repository site.

Earlier this year, the states of Washington and South Carolina filed suit in a federal court questioning whether the administration has the right to halt the project. Both these states already house nuclear waste that they had thought would be shipped to Yucca Mountain. The majorities of both state's delegations signed onto the letter.

"We are deeply disappointed that DOE has overstepped its bounds and has ignored congressional intent without peer review or proper scientific documentation in its actions regarding Yucca Mountain," the lawmakers wrote.

Last week, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission board ruling found that the administration did not have the legal right to withdraw its license for the project without congressional approval. The lawmakers are calling on Chu to stop all actions "at least until legal action regarding the withdrawal of the application is resolved by the D.C. Circuit Court and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission," the letter stated.

Of the letter's 91 signatures, 24 are senators, including two Democrats: Murray and Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Republican senators who signed onto the letter include Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine.

These senators are potential supporters of climate and energy legislation that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is hoping to bring to the floor in July.

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