LAS VEGAS (AP) A federal judge has denied motions by Nevada attorneys to force the Department of Energy to stop using the state's water for all bore hole drilling operations at the planned Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site.
U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt urged lawyers for both sides to sit down and work out their differences rather than "dig in their heels" in the fight over water at the site.
"I am directing sharply suggesting, short of requiring that the parties get together seriously and reasonably," Hunt said Thursday after announcing his decision without hearing arguments.
Hunt said neither party can claim they won this case, yet.
At issue is whether the federal government can use the state's water for drilling on the site 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
Nevada opposes the planned nuclear waste dump and has tried to cut off water use. State Engineer Tracy Taylor issued a cease-and-desist order in June arguing it was not in the state's interest to use the water for the second phase of bore hole work on the nuclear waste project.
Last month, Hunt sided with the state.
Department of Energy officials later agreed to stop using the water for the second phase but said they would continue with the first phase until it is completed at the end of this month.
"I expect the Department of Energy to keep its promise that it had stopped the phase two ... and that it will end its unauthorized water use for bore holes," Hunt said Thursday.
Court papers filed by federal attorneys this week say the Department of Energy "is in the process of drilling the very last bore hole," or the 35th one, under the first phase.
Work on both phases was being conducted simultaneously with plans to drill more than 80 bore holes to collect data about potential earthquakes and floods where surface facilities for handling and short-term storage of spent nuclear fuel are planned.
Water from nearby wells is used to cool and lubricate drill bits and to create mud for extracting rock core samples. The samples are needed to support data required for a license application to show regulators how safe the site is for handling and storing nuclear waste.Comment on this story
Project officials had said they needed to continue collecting samples through November.
At Thursday's hearing, Hunt said the state "has at least given tacit authorization for use of that water" and that he didn't interpret Taylor's cease-and-desist order as going beyond the second phase, meaning the order doesn't cover the first phase.
Senior deputy attorney general Michael Wolz, who represents Taylor, said he was disappointed that his motion was denied. "However, I don't think it changes the original outcome of phase two cease-and-desist order."