The US Department of Energy (DoE) has won another round in its ongoing litigation against Nevada officials on 16 October. In a split decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that a federal court “rather than a state court” should determine whether the state must issue water permits needed to serve the proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. DoE lawyers believe a federal court may be more sympathetic to their arguments.

The appeals court held that because the proposed repository is authorised under federal law, the case should be heard in federal court. The ruling overturns a lower court ruling that found the case should be heard in a Nevada court.

The DoE sued Nevada after the state refused to issue water permits to operate the proposed repository. The state claims it denied the permit because of potential safety threats to the public and the fact that Congress has only approved the location for study.