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Nuclear Energy Institute
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EPA's Radiation Protection Standard for Yucca Mountain Is Consistent With Global Norms

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday issued a final radiation protection standard for the planned Yucca Mountain, Nev., repository for commercial used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste from U.S. defense programs. The standard establishes an annual mean dose limit of 15 millirem to the “maximum exposed individual” for the first 10,000 years of repository operations, and an annual mean dose limit of 100 millirem beyond 10,000 years. The Department of Energy’s license application for the repository is pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Following is a statement from Marvin Fertel, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s executive vice president and chief nuclear officer.

“The nuclear energy industry is pleased the Environmental Protection Agency has issued a final standard for the Yucca Mountain repository. The long-term dose limit established by this standard is more stringent than the proposed standard that it replaces, and is consistent with both the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences and the radiation protection standards in place in virtually every country with a nuclear program around the world.

“To put in perspective the annual dose rate that the EPA has established, the average American receives 360 millirem of radiation every year, mostly from naturally occurring exposures. A standard CAT scan generates up to 1,000 millirem of radiation dose in patients. The 100 millirem standard is a conservative dosage standard globally accepted, and it demonstrates that EPA has made public safety of paramount importance.    

“Because the standard will be the basis upon which NRC will judge the license application for the Yucca Mountain repository, this action represents an important step in the repository development process. Should the NRC license the site, the facility will be closely monitored, its performance assessed for radiation exposure constantly, and all used fuel stored in the repository subject to retrievability.

“The repository is a key element of an integrated used fuel management program that includes interim storage of used fuel until recycling of used fuel closes the fuel cycle or permanent disposal is available. However, even with advanced fuel cycle technologies being developed, there still will be some quantity of final waste products that will require long-term geologic disposal.”