WASHINGTON—The nuclear energy industry has told the Department of Energy (DOE) that it firmly believes the agency should recommend Yucca Mountain, Nev., as the site for an underground disposal facility for used nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants and high-level radioactive waste from U.S. defense programs.
In formal comments filed with the agency, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) stated that scientific evidence contained in recent DOE reports "provides convincing evidence that a repository at Yucca Mountain will protect public health and safety in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency's radiation protection standard."
"The nuclear industry strongly supports a decision to recommend Yucca Mountain for development as a repository," said Steven Kraft, director of fuel supply and used fuel management. "The Energy Department's science-based suitability determination is an integral part of an environmentally responsible energy policy."
DOE is expected to decide by the end of this year whether to recommend Yucca Mountain as a site for a geologic repository. The National Academy of Sciences concluded in a report issued last June that "after four decades of study, the geological repository option remains the only scientifically credible, long-term solution for safely isolating waste without having to rely on active management."
The industry supports a Yucca Mountain site recommendation based on three principles:
The sound scientific conclusion that the proposed repository will, through natural and engineered barriers, protect public health and safety;
The importance of this project to national energy and environmental policy; and
The industry's unwavering commitment to safety in managing used nuclear fuel.
"DOE's final suitability determination on Yucca Mountain, informed by public comment, should support a recommendation to President Bush that the site be developed and that DOE proceed to the next step in the process - license applications to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build the repository," Kraft stated. "The NRC's rigorous licensing process will independently evaluate the safety of a repository before disposal operations can begin."
Used nuclear fuel results from the production of electricity at 103 commercial nuclear energy plants operating in 31 states. Nuclear energy provides electricity to one of every five U.S. homes and businesses and is the nation's largest emission-free source of electricity. Since 1983, consumers of electricity from nuclear power plants have paid one-tenth of a cent per kilowatt-hour into a special federal fund-the Nuclear Waste Fund-created by Congress to finance the federal government's nuclear fuel management program. Consumers' payments to date total more than $17 billion.
In August, the Energy Department released a preliminary site suitability evaluation report that upheld earlier scientific findings on Yucca Mountain's suitability for the underground disposal facility. NEI's comments address the August report, which the industry described as "the capstone document of a 20-year, $7 billion scientific site characterization program" that has examined every environmental facet of Yucca Mountain, from hydrology to geology to seismology and more.
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 http://www.nei.org .