Effects of a Termination of the Yucca Mountain Repository Program and Lessons Learned
Documents (all in PDF)
Yucca Mountain (Video - DOE) Runntime 12:32 Minutes: The Making of an Underground Laboratory (2004)
The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future
In 1982, the U.S. Congress enacted a law called the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA-as amended). The Act established a comprehensive national program for the safe, permanent disposal of highly radioactive wastes.
The Act directed the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to study suitable sites for a geologic repository. The geologic repository envisioned by the Act is an engineered disposal facility located deep underground. After more than two decades of scientific study, in 2002, Congress and the President approved the development of a geologic repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.
Churchill County is considered a "Affected Unit of Government" (AULG) by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. The term "affected unit of local government" means the unit of local government with jurisdiction over the site of a repository or a monitored retrievable storage facility. Such term may, at the discretion of the Secretary, include units of local government that are contiguous with such unit. (NWPA)
The Commissioners of Churchill County established the Yucca Mountain Oversight Program's who's primary goal is to focus the limited resources funded to the affected units of government on:
Churchill County has investigated potential social and economic impacts associated with the repository program. Potential fiscal impacts including impacts to local government revenue sources, and property values have been identified and analyzed for each year. The current update can be accessed here (Churchill County Baseline Report update 2014). Other studies conducted through the program can be found on our Publications page. The County will continue to monitor risk related behavior, its affects on tourism, and the associated economic and fiscal impacts.
January 29, 2015 - NRC Completes Yucca Mountain Safety Evaluation Report - More than six and a half years after the Department of Energy (DOE) submitted its license application seeking authorization to build a geologic repository, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff published the final two volumes of the safety evaluation report (SER) on the Yucca Mountain site.
NRC Annoucement Letter - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has published Volume 3 (PDF format 3.85 mp) of its safety evaluation report on the proposed underground geologic nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nev.
Volume 3 covers the period after a repository at Yucca Mountain would be permanently closed should NRC authorize construction following completion of the remaining steps in the licensing process. Volume 3 contains the staff's finding that the Department of Energy's repository design meets the requirements that apply after the repository is permanently closed, including but not limited to the post-closure performance objectives in NRC's regulations (in 10 CFR Part 63, Subpart E). These performance objectives include the requirement that the repository be composed of multiple barriers to isolate radioactivity from the environment. The staff also found the proposed repository design meets the NRC's limits or standards (in 10 CFR Part 63, Subpart L) for individual protection, human intrusion and groundwater protection.
The Department of Energy submitted its Yucca Mountain application in June 2008. The NRC staff published Volume 1 (General Information) of the safety evaluation report in August 2010. After DOE moved to withdraw the application and Congress stopped appropriating funds for the NRC's review, the agency closed out its application review and published three technical evaluation reports containing the staff's technical analyses to that point but no regulatory conclusions. The adjudication of nearly 300 contentions filed by various parties contesting the application was also suspended in September 2011. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered the NRC in August 2013 to resume the licensing process using currently available funding appropriated from the Nuclear Waste Fund. That court order led to today's publication of Volume 3. The staff expects to publish volumes 2 (Repository Safety Before Permanent Closure), 4 (Administrative and Programmatic Requirements) and 5 (License Specifications) by January 2015, as they are completed. Publication of Volume 3 does not signal whether the NRC might authorize construction of the repository. A final licensing decision, should funds beyond those currently available be appropriated, could come only after completion of the safety evaluation report, a supplement to the Department of Energy's environmental impact statement, hearings on contentions in the adjudication, and Commission review. NUREG 1949, Safety Evaluation Report Related to Disposal of High-Level Radioactive Wastes in a Geologic Repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, Volume 3, is now publicly available in the NRC's ADAMS online database as ML14288A121. More information on the Yucca Mountain licensing process is available on the NRC website.
Letter to William Boyle William J. Boyle, Ph.D., Director
NRC excerpt from letter...
"The NRC staff finds that DOE has demonstrated compliance with the NRC regulatory requirements for postclosure safety, including, but not limited to, "Performance objectives for the geologic repository after permanent closure" in 10 CFR 63.113; "Requirements for performance assessment" in 10 CFR 63.114; "Requirements for multiple barriers" in 10 CFR 63.115; and "Postclosure Public Health and Environmental Standards" in 10 CFR Part 63, Subpart L. In particular, the NRC staff finds that the proposed repository at Yucca Mountain (1) is comprised of multiple barriers and (2) based on performance assessment evaluations that are in compliance with applicable regulatory requirements, meets the 10 CFR Part 63, Subpart L limits for individual protection, human intrusion, and separate standards for protection of groundwater. This volume is one of five volumes that comprise the SER. Other portions of the NRC staff's safety review have been, or will be, documented in other volumes. SER Volume 1, which documents the results of the NRC staff's review of DOE's General Information, was published in August 2010 (ADAMS Accession No. ML 1 02440298). SER Volume 2 will document the results Download complete document NUREG-1949, Volume 1 (PDF - 5.90 MB) The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) submitted thier license application for authorization to construct and operate a high-level nuclear respository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada on June 3, 2008 to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission."
NEI - Reports And Studies The Economic Impact of the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository on the Economy of Nevada According to a study of the economic impact of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository on Nevada undertaken by the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, the project will add $228 million annually to Nevada's economy during construction and $127 million annually during operation.
On March 5th, 2010 Department of Energy (DOE) filed a motion with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to withdraw the application to build and operate Yucca Mountain.
President Barack Obama cut all funding for the DOE's work towards realizing Yucca Mountain apart from answering questions from the NRC related to the license application assigning a 15-member Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future to evaluate the fuel-cycle and disposal options, including the reprocessing of used nuclear fuel (the will not touch on any siting concerns). Their final report was submitted to the Secretary of Energy in January of 2012 and can be view here.
But in a setback for the Obama administration, a panel of judges at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruled in June 2010 that the Energy Department could not withdraw its application to open a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. States with major accumulations of waste from nuclear weapons production had petitioned to prevent the Energy Department from doing so.
Critics say the geology of the mountain ridge 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas is unsuitable for safe storage of nuclear waste for periods that would stretch beyond tens of thousands of years. Further, they say shipping the radioactive material to Nevada would invite accidents and possible attacks.
But others contend the DOE strategy to place waste in corrosion-resistant containers within Yucca Mountain tunnels will meet federal safety standards for up to 1 million years.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff were in the midst of multiyear safety review, while panels of the commission's administrative judges were hearing legal challenges to the project when the work was halted.
Suspension of Hearings – On Friday, September 30, 2011 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission filed an order suspending the licensing hearings – “Although we have been informed that the agency has current appropriated Fiscal Year 2011 Nuclear Waste Funds (NWFs) that could be carried over into the next fiscal year, there are no Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) positions (i.e., federal employee positions) requested in the President’s Fiscal Year 2012 Budget for Yucca Mountain High-Level Waste activities. Therefore, because both future appropriated NWF dollars and FTEs for this proceeding are uncertain, and consistent with the Commission’s Memorandum and Order of September 9, 2011, this proceeding is suspended.Both would come to an end if the Department of Energy is given permission to withdraw a construction application.
After three decades, the country is back to square one on the construction of a national nuclear waste long term storage facility.
The reasons for the change in direction have been rather vague. Concerns about the safety of transporting dangerous radioactive waste cross country by rail have been cited. But, there have been transports of waste going on for years without an accident or terrorist threats.
The BRC report recommends a consent based site but the idea that the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada is dead has not gone down well in Congress, where some Republicans are trying to allocate new money to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission so it can revive its evaluation of the site’s suitability.Moving From Square One on Nuclear Waste
Questions have also been raised about earthquake faults near the Yucca site, but previous DOE scientists have said that tectonic and seismic activity would not affect the natural systems. The ongoing tectonic deformation happens at such a slow rate, it would not affect the area for the 10,000 year duration of compliance.
If Yucca Mountain remains an unviable repository for the country’s radioactive nuclear waste, the material will have to be stored on the site of each nuclear power plant. It would not be an immediate problem for newer designs and future plants, which would have time and storage capacity to wait out the development for a new repository plan. Read current news regarding Yucca Mountain.
August 13, 2013: A federal appeals court ordered On Petition for Writ of Mandamus that the licensing process for a nuclear waste storage facility in southern Nevada to resume.
United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Judge Brett Kavanaugh sided with petitioners by granting an order that would move the licensing process for the facility, which has been stalled since 2011, forward.
United States Court of Appeals
Churchill County, Esmeralda County, Lander County and Mineral County (The four counties) views as to how the NRC should continue the Yucca Mountain Licensing Process.
Recent filings to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Yucca Mountain Licensing Hearings Process.