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Nuclear Energy Institute
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EPA Groundwater Radiation Standard for Yucca Mountain Provides No Added Health Benefit

WASHINGTON—The following is a statement by the Nuclear Energy Institute's senior vice president for business operations, Marvin Fertel, in response to the just-issued U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's radiation protection standard for the proposed used nuclear fuel repository at Yucca Mountain, Nev.

Federal law requires that the EPA establish public radiation protection limits for a used fuel disposal facility that protects the health and safety of the public living near the facility. The standard will be used as part of the Energy Department's determination of whether to recommend Yucca Mountain to President Bush as the repository site. It also will be used by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in licensing the disposal facility. The standard that was issued includes an "all-pathways" 15 millirem public health and safety provision and a separate groundwater provision that limits the presence of radionuclides in the groundwater. "The nuclear industry is extremely disappointed that the EPA's radiation protection standard for Yucca Mountain includes a separate groundwater component that does nothing to increase public health and safety protection. The groundwater provision lacks a sound scientific basis. Its application to Yucca Mountain will cost taxpayers and electricity consumers billions of additional dollars to license and build the repository without making the facility any safer. Furthermore, it is contrary to the requirements of the 1992 Energy Policy Act and the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences, which considered and rejected inclusion of a separate groundwater standard.

"The nuclear energy industry is examining its options, including a possible legal challenge.

"An 'all pathways,' or overall, radiation standard can conservatively meet the Energy Policy Act's individual protection requirement by comprehensively addressing all potential radiation exposures, including those from groundwater. This 'all pathways' standard fully protects public health and safety. For example, the 15 millirem 'all pathways' limit in the EPA rule is five and one-half times less than the exposure level from working in the U.S. Capitol for one year, and two times less than the typical exposure level from a medical X-ray.

"The nuclear energy industry is fully committed to ensuring that the public health and safety of all Americans are protected, and the industry will work with the Department of Energy and other agencies to ensure that the disposal facility standard is consistent with sound scientific principles and the law.

"Given the federal government's continuing failure to meet its obligation to begin disposing of used fuel from commercial nuclear power plants, it is important for the Bush Administration to complete its review of the science and make a determination, this year, regarding Yucca Mountain's suitability."


The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available on NEI’s Internet site at .