This April 9, 2015 file photo shows the south portal of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump near Mercury, Nev. Federal regulators say a key report about the long-studied national nuclear waste dump in Nevada finds just a small chance that radioactive contamination could get into the environment. John Locher, File AP Photo
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 beginning 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.
About Churchill County's Yucca Mountain Nuclear Oversight program:
Churchill County is considered an "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 proposed Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Project. 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 2015). 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 Releases new 2015 - 2016 Community Survey
NRC Staff's Supplement to Yucca Mountain Environmental Impact Statement:
September 3, 2015 Meeting at NRC headquarters in Rockville, MD to receive comments on the draft supplement
Participation: Category 3
Teleconference - The number to dial for this call is (888) 790-2936 and the passcode is 9708500.
NRC One White Flint North
September 15, 2015 Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada to receive comments on the draft supplement
Participation: Category 3
Embassy Suites Convention Center
September 17, 2015 Meeting in Amargosa Valley, Nevada to receive comments on the draft supplement
Participation: Category 3
Amargosa Community Center
October 15, 2015 Teleconference from NRC headquarters in Rockville, MD to receive comments on the draft supplement
Participation: Category 3
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 their license application for authorization to construct and operate a high-level nuclear repository 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 Barrack 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 unenviable 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.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) -
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.