Whitman Announces Stringent Standards for Spent Fuel from Nuclear Plants

Whitman announces stringent public health and environmental\r\nprotection standards for the proposed repository for\r\nspent fuel from the nation's commercial nuclear power plants.

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman has announced very stringent public health and environmental protection standards for Yucca Mountain, the proposed repository for spent fuel from the nation''s commercial nuclear power plants.

"As a nation, we must address our nuclear waste disposal problem, but we must do so in a way that protects public health and the environment," Whitman said. "EPA''s Yucca Mountain environmental standards are the world''s first to address long-term storage and disposal of this type of radiactive waste. These are strong standards and they should be. We designed them to ensure that people living near this potential repository will be protected -- now and for future generations."

Yucca Mountain is located in Nye County, Nev. on federally owned land, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Congress designated Yucca Mountain as the site for a potential geologic repository for safe storage and disposal of spent fuel from the nation''s commercial nuclear power plants and other high-level radioactive waste.

That waste currently is stored at commercial nuclear power lants and research reactor sites in 43 states.

The fundamental Yucca Mountain requirements for protecting people and ground water address all potential sources of radiation exposure from ground water, air and soil.

The standards are designed to protect the residents closest to the repository at levels that are within the Agency''s acceptable risk range for environmental pollutants. This corresponds to a dose limit of no more than 15 millirem per year from all pathways -- about twice the exposure of just living in a brick house for a year.

Whitman also announced separate standards to protect groundwater resources. The proposed repository sits above an aquifer that is a critical source of water for irrigation, dairy cattle farming and drinking water.The standard for the Yucca Mountain protects groundwater resources to the 4 millirem per year limit established under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

"Under these standards, future generations will be securely protected," Whitman said. "Our standards require that a person living in the vicinity of Yucca Mountain and drinking untrcated water at the site 10,000 years from now wiill have less radiation exposure than we get today in about two round-trip flights from New York to Los Angeles."

The final standards were made more protective by:

  • establishing an additional 1 mile safety zone between the nearest residents and the location where DOE must prove its meeting the EPA standard. The change is from 12 miles to 11 miles from the repository.
  • requiring DOE to evaluate the potential for radiation in 3,000 acre-feet per year of groundwater. An acre foot is 1 acre of water, 1-foot-deep.

For more inforamtion on EPA''s final public health and environmental protection standards for Yucca Mountain, go to www.epa.gov/radiation/yucca.

by Melissa Martin

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