The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's review of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository should continue.
Unless Congress says otherwise or there are no appropriated funds remaining, the NRC must promptly continue with the legally mandated licensing process, Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the 2-1 decision.
The NRC has argued that Congress has not provided sufficient funds to continue the licensing process.
Yucca Mountain, located about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, was planned to be the site where the U.S. would permanently store its high-level nuclear waste. In 1987, Congress directed the Department of Energy to dispose of waste in the mountain beginning in 1998.
In 2008, the DOE submitted a license application to the NRC seeking to construct a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, with a goal of opening it in 2017, a date later delayed until 2020.
In March of 2009, following the election of President Barack Obama, the secretary of energy announced plans to terminate the Yucca Mountain project.
"At this point, the Commission is simply defying a law enacted by Congress, and the Commission is doing so without any legal basis," according to the order.