NRC takes another step on Yucca Mountain review

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is releasing a draft environmental impact statement supplement on the effects of a permanent repository for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain, Nev.

The supplement finds that the impacts would be “small,” NRC said in an Aug. 13 news release.

The NRC will begin taking public comments on the draft Aug. 21 upon publication of a notice in the Federal Register. The draft can be found on the NRC’s website.

In addition to providing written comments, the public will have opportunities to comment at meetings in September at NRC Headquarters in Rockville, Md., Las Vegas and Nye County, Nev., and via a conference call in early October. NRC staff will discuss the draft and how to comment on it in a conference call in two weeks. More information on these meetings will be provided shortly on the NRC’s website and in the Federal Register.

It describes the affected environment with respect to the groundwater flow path from the repository. It models that flow path and movement of radiological and non-radiological contaminants. It evaluates the impacts of contaminants at locations where groundwater is currently being withdrawn, and locations of natural surface discharge along the groundwater flow path, considering the effects from possible changes in climate and water withdrawal, and cumulative impacts from other past, present and reasonably foreseeable future activities in the area.

The NRC staff’s analysis shows peak estimated radiological doses along the flow path lower than those estimated by DOE for the maximally exposed individual at a location 11 miles south of the repository site. It also shows the impacts from non-radiological contaminants would be “small.” This means the environmental effects are not detectable or are so minor they will not destabilize or noticeably alter any important attribute of affected resources.

After considering the comments received, the staff will revise the supplement, as appropriate, before issuing a final supplement in early 2016.

In August of 2013 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that NRC was wrong to stop reviewing the application for the proposed Yucca Mountain spent fuel site in Nevada because it lacked funding to finish the job.

Since then, NRC has been resuming its license work with limited available funds.

Earlier this year, NRC Chairman Stephen Burns told a Senate panel that completing the Yucca Mountain licensing process would require an additional $330m from Congress.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.