What's new with Yucca Mountain:
DOE sets new nuclear waste target date - The Department of Energy set a new 2048 target to open a burial site for nuclear waste - a deadline 50 years later than originally planned.
Documents (all in PDF)
Yucca Mountain (Video - DOE) Runntime 12:32 Minutes: The Making of an Underground Laboratory (2004)
Safeguarding Nuclear Waste - After Fukushima, Waste Storage Scrutinized in U.S.
Our Track hearings website has all the updates related to the ongoing Yucca Mountain High-Level Waste hearings.
The Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management's Website is no longer in existance. Archival documents can be found online here: http://energy.gov/list-yucca-mountain-archival-documents Additional Yucca Mountain license application-related documents are available through the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Licensing Support Network Web site. You may also wish to visit the NRC's Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS) Web site.
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 2011). 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.
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.
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.
What to do with nuclear waste?
Timeline brief history: