About Yucca Mountain:

The purpose of the Yucca Mountain project is to comply with the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 and develop a national site for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste storage. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA-as amended) 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.

Federal funding for the site ended in 2011 under the Obama Administration via amendment to the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, passed on April 14, 2011 .Due to zero funding begining in 2011 in the budget for the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, 800 employees were laid off on March 31, 2009, about 100 employees remained on the project until all technical staff were laid off by the end of FY 2010.

This leaves US non-governmental entities, such as utilities without any designated long term storage site for the high level radioactive waste stored on-site at various nuclear facilities around the country.

The Department of Energy (DOE) is reviewing other options for a high-level waste repository and a Blue Ribbon Commission established by the Secretary of Energy released its final report in January 2012. It expressed urgency to find a consolidated, geological repository, and that any future facility should be developed by a new independent organization with direct access to the Nuclear Waste Fund, that is not subject to political and financial control like the DOE.

Background on Yucca Mountain

The DOE began studying Yucca Mountain in 1978 to determine whether it would be suitable for the nation's first long-term geologic repository for over 70,000 metric tons (69,000 long tons; 77,000 short tons) (150 million pounds) of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste currently stored at 121 sites around the nation. An estimated 10,000 metric tons (9,800 long tons; 11,000 short tons) of the waste would be from America's military nuclear programs. On December 19, 1984, the DOE selected ten locations in six states for consideration as potential repository sites, based on data collected for nearly ten years. The ten sites were studied and results of these preliminary studies were reported in 1985. Based on these reports, President Ronald Reagan approved three sites for intensive scientific study called site characterization. The three sites were Hanford, Washington; Deaf Smith County, Texas; and Yucca Mountain. In 1987, Congress amended the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and directed DOE to study only Yucca Mountain, which is located within a former nuclear test site. The Act provided that if during site characterization the Yucca Mountain location was found unsuitable, studies would be stopped immediately. This option expired when the site was actually recommended by the President. On July 23, 2002, President George W. Bush signed House Joint Resolution 87,[9] (Pub.L. 107–200) allowing the DOE to take the next step in establishing a safe repository in which to store the country's nuclear waste. The DOE was to begin accepting spent fuel at the Yucca Mountain Repository by January 31, 1998 but did not do so because of a series of delays due to legal challenges, concerns over how to transport nuclear waste to the facility, and political pressures resulting in underfunding of the construction.

During his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to abandon the Yucca Mountain project.[1] As a result Senator Reid moved the Nevada primary to help Obama's campaign. After his election, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission told Obama he did not have the ability to do so. On April 23, 2009, Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and eight other senators introduced legislation to provide "rebates" from a $30 billion federally managed fund into which nuclear power plants had been paying, so as to refund all collected funds if the project was in fact cancelled by Congress.[2]

In November 2013, in response to a lawsuit filed by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the Nuclear Energy Institute, the US court of appeals ruled that nuclear utilities may stop paying into the nuclear waste recovery fund until either the DOE follows the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, which designates Yucca Mountain as the repository, or Congress changes the law.[3] The fee ended May 16, 2014.

Related links:

About Chuchill County, Nevada's Yucca Mountain Nuclear Oversight program:

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:

  • Conducting adequate program oversight and monitoring.

  • Identifying potential impacts affecting the local community areas.

  • Providing appropriate levels of public information.

  • Understanding key geotechnical issues facing the repository program.

  • On-going Socioeconomic Monitoring and Impact Assessment

  • Social and Economic Impacts
  • News about Yucca Mountain
  • Yucca Licensing Hearing process
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.

Churchill County completes community survey for 2015.

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.

In the end, the staff's recommendation is that the commission should not authorize construction of the repository because the DOE has not met certain land and water rights requirements, and because a supplement to the DOE's environmental impact statement has not yet been completed.

Final Two Volumes of Yucca Mountain Safety Evaluation Report

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has published volumes two and five of its safety evaluation report on the proposed geologic high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain,

Volume 2 covers repository safety before permanent closure. Volume 5 covers proposed conditions on the construction authorization, probable subjects of license specifications, and the NRC staff's overall conclusions

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
Office of Used Nuclear Fuel Disposition
Research and Development

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.

"Our more modest task is to ensure, in justiciable cases, that agencies comply with the law as it has been set by Congress," Kavanaugh said in the ruling. "Here, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has continued to violate the law governing the Yucca Mountain licensing process."

  • Kavanaugh referenced the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, which was passed by Congress and then signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. The law calls for the NRC to consider an application to store nuclear waste at the mountain site and issue a decision within three years of the submission. He said that application was submitted in June 2008, but the NRC's deadline on a decision has passed.

    November 21, 2013: MEMORANDUM AND ORDER On August 13, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a decision granting a writ of mandamus, and directing the NRC to resume the licensing process for the Department of Energy's Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste repository construction authorization application.1 We issued an order seeking comment from the participants in this adjudication as to how the agency should continue with the licensing process.2 Today we detail the course of action we have selected.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) -

Yucca Mountain Archival Documents

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.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER On August 13, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a decision granting a writ of mandamus, and directing the NRC to resume the licensing process for the Department of Energy's Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste repository construction authorization application.1 We issued an order seeking comment from the participants in this adjudication as to how the agency should continue with the licensing process.2 Today we detail the course of action we have selected.




tunnel inside Yucca Mountain