Potential Yucca Leak Poses 'Small' Risk: NRC

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By Brian Dabbs

May 6 — The effects of a potential leak from the proposed nuclear waste repository at Nevada's Yucca Mountain would be “small” over the next million years, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in a report.

The 301-page environmental study, released late on May 5, examined the significance of a “potential discharge” at the proposed site on groundwater, soil and the public health of surrounding communities, taking into account a changing climate.

“The NRC staff finds that all of the impacts on the resources evaluated in this supplement are SMALL,” it said.

Comprehensive Evaluation

“The analysis in this supplement encompasses the range of credible future climates and human activities affecting groundwater in the Yucca Mountain region, and includes conservative assumptions for future conditions and processes,” the report says. “Future climates are projected to include periods that are relatively hot and dry (similar to present-day conditions) and periods that are relatively cooler and wetter over the one-million-year time period. These climate states are based on geologic evidence of past climate change cycles in the region.”

NRC staff also assessed expected human-induced climate change, which would lead to warmer and drier conditions.

The report said the estimated annual individual radiological dose likely to result from a leak is 1.3 millirem. By comparison, it said, background radiation is 300 millirem per year.

Possible Interim Site

For several decades, all efforts to site a permanent repository for the final disposal of waste were focused on building an underground repository at Yucca Mountain. Efforts to site a facility there have failed to date, largely due to extensive local opposition. Its future remains in limbo.

An industry petition recently called for an interim nuclear waste and spent fuel storage facility in Andrews, Texas.

Waste Control Specialists, in partnership with REVA Inc. and NAC International, submitted a license application to the NRC in late April (83 DEN A-13, 4/29/16).

In a news conference promoting the application, WCS President Rod Baltzer called for lawmakers and regulators to continue to pave the way for a permanent repository.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Dabbs in Washington at bdabbs@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

For More Information

The report is available at http://src.bna.com/eLA.