Native Council Wins Right to Intervene in Yucca Mountain License Application

Zabarte_Ian_bigpictureBy Ian Zabarte

Last month the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety Licensing Board Panel (ASLBP) Construction Authorization Board (CAB) issued a Memorandum and Order: Identifying Participants and Contentions, granting the Native Community Action Council’s (NCAC) Petition to Intervene and Contentions.

Requirements Met

NCAC “has met the requirements for representational standing and we grant the NCAC standing to intervene . . .” Decision, page 68. The judges agreed that NCAC represents Shoshone and Paiute communities which will be directly affected by Yucca Mountain. Therefore, NCAC is a party to the case, and may fully participate in the opposition to the licensing application.yucca11

NCAC’s participation is made conditional upon our compliance with the LSN network, the electronic filing system adopted for this case. Decision, page 100. The NCAC hired a person a few weeks ago to insure both that NCAC was properly registered, and had properly filed the documents necessary for compliance with the Licensing Support Network (LSN). NCAC is presently in compliance with those requirements, so the condition is satisfied.

NCAC Contentions


NCAC raised three “contentions” in opposition to the licensing of the facility. First, NCAC demonstrated that the lands on which the facility is proposed to be built, remain Shoshone lands. The judges agreed that this is a “viable” legal claim, and this contention is admitted. Decision, page 130. (The judges accepted our argument that the Shoshone claim to the lands is a “cloud” on the United States assertion of title. They did not accept the argument that the Shoshone title is reserved by the Treaty of Ruby Valley. We will continue, therefore, to fight about this with legal arguments.)

Second, NCAC contended that the United States did not have water rights to groundwater necessary for construction and operation of the facility. The judges rejected this contention. Decision page 131. The judges assert that because the Treaty of Ruby Valley does not specifically reserve water rights, the issue is “outside the scope” of these proceedings. We disagree with the judges on this, and will consider whether to appeal this question to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Third, NCAC contended that the environmental reviews of the proposed facility failed to adequately account for the damage which would be caused to cultural practices of Shoshone and Paiute people. The judges agreed that this is a viable contention and NCAC is permitted to proceed with it. Decision, p. 130.

This is a very significant achievement for NCAC. Our fight is long but we are strong people. The full Memorandum and Order may be viewed at: Φ

Ian Zabarte is Native activist and a member of the Western Shoshone National Council. Contact: 702.460.6232. He is affiliated with the Nevada Test Site Oral History Project

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