373 F.3d 1251 (D.C. Cir. 2004), 01-1258, Nuclear Energy Institute, Inc. v. Environmental Protection Agency

Docket Nº:01-1258, 01-1268, 01-1295, 01-1425, 01-1426, 01-1516, 02-1036, 02-1077, 02-1116, 02-1179, 02-1196, 03-1009, 03-1058.
Citation:373 F.3d 1251
Party Name:NUCLEAR ENERGY INSTITUTE, INC., Petitioner v. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, Respondent.
Case Date:July 09, 2004
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
 
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Page 1251

373 F.3d 1251 (D.C. Cir. 2004)

NUCLEAR ENERGY INSTITUTE, INC., Petitioner

v.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, Respondent.

Nos. 01-1258, 01-1268, 01-1295, 01-1425, 01-1426, 01-1516, 02-1036, 02-1077, 02-1116, 02-1179, 02-1196, 03-1009, 03-1058.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

July 9, 2004

Argued Jan. 14, 2004.

Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied Sept. 1, 2004.[*]

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On Petitions for Review of Orders of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Antonio Rossmann, Geoffrey Fettus, Martin G. Malsch, Charles J. Cooper, and Joseph R. Egan argued the causes for petitioners State of Nevada and Natural Resources Defense Council, et al. With them on the briefs were Roger B. Moore, Charles J. Fitzpatrick, Howard K. Shapar, Brian Sandoval, Attorney General, Attorney General's Office of the State of Nevada, Marta A. Adams, Senior Deputy Attorney General, Robert J. Cynkar, Brian S. Koukoutchos, Vincent J. Colatriano, and William H. Briggs Jr.

John C. Martin argued the cause for petitioner Nuclear Energy Institute, Inc. With him on the briefs were Jean V. MacHarg, Susan M. Mathiascheck, Robert W. Bishop, and Michael A. Bauser.

Christopher S. Vaden, Michele L. Walter, and Ronald M. Spritzer, Attorneys, U.S. Department of Justice, and Steven F. Crockett, Special Counsel, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, argued the causes for respondents. With them on the briefs were Jeffrey B. Clark, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, G. Scott Williams, John A. Bryson, and Greer S. Goldman, Attorneys, Karen D. Cyr, General Counsel, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, John F. Cordes Jr., Solicitor, E. Leo Slaggie, Deputy Solicitor, and Marc Johnson, Deputy General Counsel, U.S. Department of Energy. John C. Cruden, Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, and Elizabeth A. Peterson, Attorney, entered an appearance.

Michael A. Bauser argued the cause for intervenor Nuclear Energy Institute, Inc. With him on the briefs of intervenor/amicus Nuclear Energy Institute, Inc. and amicus National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners were Robert W. Bishop, James Bradford Ramsay, and Sharla M. Barklind.

Before: EDWARDS, HENDERSON, and TATEL, Circuit Judges.

OPINION [**]

PER CURIAM:

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. Background .................................................................................................1258

II. The EPA Cases .......................................................................................... 1262

A. The EPA Rule: 40 C.F.R. part 197 ................................................... 1262

B. Challenges Brought by Nevada and Environmental Petitioners ............ 1264

1. Jurisdiction .............................................................................. 1264

2. The 10,000-Year Compliance Period ...................................... 1266

3. The Controlled Area ................................................................ 1273

4. The Definition of "Disposal" ...................................................... 1277

C. NEI's Challenge to the Ground-Water Standard ..................................1278

1. Standing ................................................................................... 1278

2. Alleged Conflicts with the Energy Policy Act ............................. 1280

3. Arbitrary and Capricious Challenge ........................................... 1283

III. The NRC Cases ......................................................................................... 1285

A. Jurisdiction and Timeliness .................................................................. 1285

B. Nevada's Merits Claims ...................................................................... 1289

1. Primary Barrier and Multiple Barriers Claims ..............................1289

a. The Primary Barrier Claim ............................................... 1289

b. The Multiple Barriers Claims ............................................ 1294

2. Compliance with EPA's Part 197 in Construction

Authorization ..................................................................................... 1297

3. 10,000-Year Compliance Period ................................................ 1298

4. Reviewability of DOE's Peak Dose Calculations .......................... 1299

5. NRC's "Reasonable Expectation" Standard ................................. 1300

IV. The Site-Designation Cases .......................................................................... 1301

A. The Constitutional Case ....................................................................... 1302

1. Issue Preclusion .......................................................................... 1302

2. Merits of the Constitutional Challenge .......................................... 1303

B. The DOE Case ..................................................................................... 1309

1. DOE Criteria, Secretary's Alleged Failure To Take Mandatory

Actions, and Site Recommendations ...................................................... 1309

2. The Final Environmental Impact Statement ................................... 1312

V. Conclusion ...................................................................................................... 1315

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Having the capacity to outlast human civilization as we know it and the potential to devastate public health and the environment, nuclear waste has vexed scientists, Congress, and regulatory agencies for the last half-century. After rejecting disposal options ranging from burying nuclear waste in polar ice caps to rocketing it to the sun, the scientific consensus has settled on deep geologic burial as the safest way to isolate this toxic material in perpetuity. Following years of legislative wrangling and agency deliberation, the political consensus has now selected Yucca Mountain, Nevada as the nation's nuclear waste disposal site.

In this case, we consider challenges by the State of Nevada, local communities, several environmental organizations, and the nuclear energy industry to the statutory and regulatory scheme devised to establish and govern a Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. Petitioners challenge regulations issued by the three agencies with responsibility for the site: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC or Commission), and the Department of Energy (DOE). Petitioners also challenge the constitutionality of the joint resolution through which Congress selected Yucca Mountain as the repository site, as well as certain actions of the President and Energy Secretary leading to approval of the Yucca site.

We conclude: (1) The 10,000-year compliance period selected by EPA violates section 801 of the Energy Policy Act (EnPA) because it is not, as EnPA requires, "based upon and consistent with" the findings and recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences. The remaining challenges to the EPA regulation are without merit. (2) The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's licensing requirements are neither unlawful nor arbitrary and capricious except to the extent that they incorporate EPA's 10,000-year compliance period. (3) The congressional resolution selecting the Yucca site for development represents an appropriate exercise of Congress's Article IV, section 3 authority over federal property. (4) The Department of Energy's and the President's actions leading to the selection of the Yucca Mountain site are unreviewable. All but one of Nevada's challenges to these actions are moot, and the remaining challenge is unripe. Accordingly, we vacate the EPA and NRC regulations insofar as they include a 10,000-year compliance period. We deny or dismiss the remaining petitions for review.

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I. BACKGROUND

Since the dawn of the atomic age, the United States has used nuclear fission to generate electricity. Today, approximately twenty percent of the nation's electricity comes from nuclear power. See Recommendation by the Secretary of Energy Regarding the Suitability of the Yucca Mountain Site for a Repository Under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 at 1 (Feb. 2002), available at http://www.ocrwm.doe.gov/ymp/sr/sar.pdf [hereinafter "Secretary's Recommendation"]. Although nuclear power burns without emitting harmful greenhouse gases, it produces a potentially deadly and long-lasting byproduct: highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel.

At massive levels, radiation exposure can cause sudden death. National Institutes of Health, Fact Sheet: What We Know About Radiation, at http:// www.nih.gov/health/chip/od/radiation (last visited May 28, 2004). At lower doses, radiation can have devastating health effects, including increased cancer risks and serious birth defects such as mental retardation, eye malformations, and small brain or head size. See Environmental Radiation Protection Standards for Yucca Mountain, Nevada, 64 Fed. Reg. 46,976, 46,978 (Aug. 27, 1999).

Radioactive waste and its harmful consequences persist for time spans seemingly beyond human comprehension. For example, iodine-129, one of the radionuclides expected to be buried at Yucca Mountain, has a half-life of seventeen million years. See COMM. ON TECHNICAL BASES FOR YUCCA MOUNTAIN STANDARDS, NAT'L RESEARCH...

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