The U.S. Department of Energy on Friday filed a 48-page appeal asking the five-member board at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to set aside an application for the Yucca Mountain waste repository project. The agency said that Energy Secretary Steven Chu had the authority to halt the project.

The DOE was seeking to reverse a decision by a three-judge NRC panel in June that denied a March 2010 motion by the DOE to withdraw its 17-volume, 8,600-page license application to build a nuclear waste repository in Nevada. The judges said that the withdrawal is illegal because it supersedes the Energy Department’s authority under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) of 1982.

The appeal will be considered on a fast-track schedule by the NRC ruling board and a ruling is expected in a month, reported the Las Vegas Sun. The newspaper noted members of the NRC board are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

The current board comprises three members nominated by the president, and a fourth member, Chairman Gregory Jaczko, who was a science adviser to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Reid has doggedly tried to unravel the Yucca Mountain project.

The newspaper also reported that in a legal filing, attorneys for Washington state and South Carolina—states suing the DOE for its motion to withdraw the project—argued that three of the five commissioners should be disqualified. The NRC cannot consider the DOE’s appeal without quorum, it noted.

Sources: DOE, Las Vegas Sun