Nuke Commission Releases Yucca Mountain Plan

Yucca Mountain
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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has released its plan for reviewing an Energy Department license application to build the nation’s nuclear waste dump in the Nevada desert.

The document released Tuesday does not set licensing criteria for the Yucca Mountain site, about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. It instead aims to ensure “quality and uniformity” of commission staff reviews of the license application. The commission approved the document June 26.

Energy Department spokes-man Joe Davis called it a “road map” for the license review.

It outlines how the regulatory commission intends to review the license application, including plans for before the repository opens and after it closes; research and development to resolve safety issues; and repository performance and administrative requirements.

The Energy Department plans to submit a license application by the end of 2004 and open the repository in 2010.

It would remain open for 50 years, with waste arriving until 2034. Plans call for entombing 70,000 tons of commercial, industrial and military radioactive waste in casks set in tunnels 1,000 feet beneath an ancient volcanic ridge. Scientists say the material will remain radioactive for 10,000 years.

Congress last year picked the site after recommendations from Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and President Bush.

A draft of the commission’s plan was released in March for informational purposes but not public comment. The commission took five months of comment and held three public meetings in Nevada after a previous draft was released in March 2002.

Other federal laws set licensing requirements, which Nevada has challenged in court. Arguments in the case are due in September in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Jeff Ciocco, an NRC senior project manager, said the 472-page document is posted on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Internet Web site and includes graphics and flow charts to improve staff understanding and use. He said a detailed notice outlining the changes and public comment responses will appear in the Federal Register.