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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission handed down a long awaited decision today that allows the Obama administration to continue its plans to close Yucca Mountain, the nuclear waste dump in Nevada.
The commission split, 2-2, on whether to uphold or reject a decision by an independent nuclear licensing board, which voted last year to reject the Energy Department's attempt to withdraw its application for Yucca Mountain. The licensing board said the government failed to make a scientific case for why the application should be withdrawn.
Despite the split vote, the NRC said in an order Friday that the licensing board should continue steps to close down Yucca Mountain by the end of the month.
This story is developing, so we'll add more details as they come in.
Update at 3:42 p.m. ET. The Status Quo:
So what does this decision really mean? The Las Vegas Review Journal says it leaves it "unclear." Basically, the ruling tells the licensing board that it can continue working until its money runs out at the end of September. It means the ball is now in Congress' court: The Republican-controlled House has allotted money for the process, while the Democratically-controlled Senate has not.
Here's how one attorney the Review Journal spoke to put it:
"It's pretty much the status quo," attorney Marty Malsch said. "The license proceeding will disappear, but I guess it is where it has always been — up to Congress whether to direct the NRC to continue."
"It is not the nail in the coffin we would have liked to have seen," said Joe Strolin, acting director of the state Agency for Nuclear Projects. But Strolin added it was the next best thing — an affirmation by the NRC that it will be ending its association with the proposal.
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