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The Obama administration won a legal battle Friday in the long-standing fight over where to bury the nation's nuclear waste, but it's not likely to be the last.

The federal appeals court in Washington ruled against South Carolina, Washington state and others that want to ship radioactive spent nuclear fuel they are temporarily storing to a repository 90 miles from Las Vegas at Yucca Mountain.

Congress chose Yucca Mountain as the leading candidate for waste disposal. But opponents are concerned about contamination, and the Obama administration said it would not consider the site and would look for alternatives.

The appeals court ruled that it's not an appropriate time for it to intervene because the Nuclear Regulatory Commission hasn't made a final decision yet on the status of Yucca Mountain. So the court threw out the case.

But the court pointed out that the commission is required under the law to issue a final decision within four years of an application, which will come in 2012 for the Bush administration's application for construction at Yucca Mountain. The court noted the commission's decision can be reviewed by the court and that it can also be sued for failing to act by the deadline.

Other than Yucca Mountain, the United States has no long-term plan for disposing of its nuclear waste. A federal report issued early in June said the U.S. has generated more than 82,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel and high-level nuclear waste, which it was storing at 80 sites in 35 states.


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