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Nevada Shuts Off Water to Proposed Nuclear Dump Site

April 11, 2002|From Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — Nevada made good Wednesday on a promise to shut off water to the site of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump, but the federal project won't run dry.

The Energy Department is using a newly built 1-million-gallon tank and one small well for the site 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Department officials said the stored water, plus 400,000 gallons stored in other tanks at the Nevada Test Site, should last several months while scientists continue experiments and design work at the site.

"We have a small window until this water issue begins to impede our ongoing scientific work," said Joe Davis, spokesman for Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham in Washington.

Stopping the water was Nevada's latest tactic to try to prevent the federal government from storing nuclear waste at the site. The state has filed three lawsuits to block the storage.

Nevada State Engineer Hugh Ricci banned the Energy Department from drawing water from all but one well after a temporary permit expired Tuesday.

The state had also shut off water to the site in February 2000, but the federal government sued and the water kept flowing. Yucca Mountain averages less than 7 inches of precipitation a year.

The case is pending before U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt in Las Vegas. He heard last month from a Justice Department lawyer, who said the Yucca Mountain project would be in "dire need of water" if Ricci denied the permits.

Ricci said the federal government was allowed water from one well because documents filed Monday asserted the water was being put to "beneficial use." The well provides up to 750,000 gallons a year.

That amount is less than 1% of the 140 million gallons a year the Energy Department has requested, Ricci noted.

Also Wednesday, state lawmakers approved using up to $3 million in emergency funds to lobby against the waste dump. The funds must be matched by public or private sources before they can be used.

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