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Fuel Cycle to Nowhere

U.S. Law and Policy on Nuclear Waste

Richard Burleson Stewart and Jane Bloom Stewart

Publication Year: 2011

For twenty-five years, the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada was designated as the sole destination for disposal of the nation’s accumulated stockpiles of highly radioactive nuclear power and weapons wastes. Now the Obama administration has abandoned Yucca, and Congress must pass new laws to solve the resulting disposal crisis. Even as the federal government seeks to expand nuclear power, local communities and states are demanding a credible program for disposal of the wastes that we already have. The Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future, appointed by the Obama administration to develop a plan, is currently conducting hearings. The first comprehensive history and overview of U.S. nuclear waste law and regulation, Fuel Cycle to Nowhere traces sixty years of nuclear weapons programs, the growth of nuclear power, and their waste legacies, the rise of environmentalism, and the responses of federal agencies. Richard and Jane Stewart expertly analyze the changing policies for storing low-level waste, transuranic waste, spent nuclear fuel, and high-level waste and for regulating their transport by rail and by truck. They also chronicle “a tale of two repositories”—one, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, known as WIPP, the world’s only operating deep geologic nuclear waste disposal facility, which emerged from a contentious but ultimately successful struggle between federal and state interests; the other, Yucca Mountain, mandated top down by Congress and a failure. Fuel Cycle to Nowhere provides the critical information and analysis on the waste disposal issues and solutions that the commission, Congress, the administration, journalists, policymakers, and the public so urgently need. This book is a project of the Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation (CRESP), a Vanderbilt University–led, multi-university consortium supported as a cooperative agreement by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Environmental This book is a project of the Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation (CRESP), a Vanderbilt University-led, multi-university consortium supported as a cooperative agreement by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Environmental Management to support safe, effective, publicly credible, risk informed management of existing and future nuclear waste from government and civilian sources through independent strategic analysis, review, applied research and education.

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press

Title Page

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Table of Contents

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Acronyms and Abbreviations

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pp. xi-xiv

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pp. xv-xviii

This book emerged out of research that we undertook as part of our work with the Con-sortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation (CRESP), a multidisciplinary consortium of academics at eight universities and a medical school. CRESP conducts and publishes research on the technical, scientific, economic, legal, and policy elements of U.S. nuclear waste policies.1 We found that parts of the policies and their history had ...

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This book presents the first comprehensive account of the history and current status of U.S. nuclear waste regulatory law and policy. The history, extending over sixty years, is extraordinarily rich, with interacting technological, scientific, economic, political, social, and international security dimensions. The U.S. legal and regulatory regime for nuclear waste is also highly complex, even labyrinthine. It is a palimpsest composed of federal and state statutes, presidential executive orders, administrative regulation and guidance documents, reports of expert bodies and...

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The Current Nuclear Waste Policy Dilemma

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pp. 2-3

The nuclear waste dilemma arises at the same time the nation faces momentous energy policy choices posed by the need for decisive actions to mitigate climate change and to reduce dependence on foreign oil. As a major part of an initiative to promote development of low-carbon and renewable energy resources, President Obama, with broad support in Congress but significant dissent from the public, has strongly supported big government subsidies and other initiatives to...

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Lessons from Prior Government Programs for Nuclear Waste Disposal

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pp. 3-4

This book is in important respects a tale of two repositories. As we researched the history of U.S. nuclear waste policy, which really began in the 1950s with a key report by an NAS committee recommending deep geologic repository disposal for the nation’s most radioactive waste, we became fascinated by the question of why the WIPP repository for intermediate-level defense transuranic wastes succeeded in becoming the world’s only operating nuclear waste repository...

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Nuclear Waste Disposal: Meeting the Political and Institutional Challenge

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pp. 4-6

There are significant technical challenges in identifying the most suitable sites and designing and constructing secure nuclear waste repositories and storage facilities, but—as WIPP demonstrates—we have the means to overcome them. The history shows that the most important and difficult challenges are not technical but political, institutional, and social. Siting and developing repositories and other nuclear waste facilities is a politically fraught enterprise...

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Nuclear Waste Policy Options and Choices

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pp. 6-8

There are significant technical challenges in identifying the most suitable sites and designing and constructing secure nuclear waste repositories and storage facilities, but—as WIPP demonstrates—we have the means to overcome them. The history shows that the most important and difficult challenges are not technical but political, institutional, and social. Siting and developing repositories and other nuclear waste facilities is a politically fraught enterprise...

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Evolutionary Dynamics in U.S. Nuclear Waste Law and Policy

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pp. 8-9

We intend the history presented in this book not only to provide lessons to help improve future nuclear waste law and policy, but also to be of intrinsic interest for what it reveals about the processes of historical change, the interplay of contingencies and systemic factors, and the nature of U.S. political and legal institutions. The history falls into two distinct eras. During the first three decades—from the beginning of the Cold War to the late 1970s—the problem of disposing of the most highly radioactive wastes was largely ignored. During the second three decades, the nation abruptly changed course and mobilized...

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Federalism and the Federal Courts

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pp. 9-11

The history of nuclear waste policy underscores the importance of two fundamentals in our country’s governance structure: federalism and the federal judiciary. Both of these have critical roles as legal checks and policy balances against the political branches of the federal government. State and local governments are an important locus of political power and legal authority that can contest and blunt assertions of federal power. The federal courts operate as a check on Congress and the executive branch and play a critical role in ensuring that federal agencies adhere to the rule of law in making decisions and are accountable to citizens affected by those decisions...

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The Coming Third Era

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pp. 11-13

As we stand on the threshold of a new era, the ethical foundations of our nuclear waste law and policy bear reflection. A striking and pervasive quality of the federal government’s stance in both earlier eras is arrogance: first, the arrogance of AEC and the rest of the nuclear establishment in pushing forward with weapons production and nuclear power heedless of the huge debts they were accumulating by ignoring waste disposal and other environmental problems; second, Congress’s arrogance when it finally came...

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1. The Evolution of U.S. Nuclear Waste Law and Policy

For nearly thirty years after the inception of the nuclear era during World War II, the federal government paid little serious attention to disposing of the most highly radio-active wastes generated by nuclear weapons manufacture and the rise of nuclear power. Disposal of defense high-level wastes took a backseat to the Cold War buildup of the nation’s nuclear arsenal. Further, it was assumed that the spent nuclear fuel at power ...

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Nuclear Weapons Buildup and the Rise of Nuclear Power, 1946–1970

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pp. 17-29

Shortly after the rapid development of the atomic bomb during World War II and the wartime demonstration in 1945 of the terrible power of nuclear technology, Congress wartime demonstration in 1945 of the terrible power of nuclear technology, Congress adopted the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 (AEA), which created the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) to run a tightly centralized federal monopoly on all applications of nuclear technologies.1 Established as an extremely powerful agency with sweeping authority over all nuclear activities...

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The Rise of the Environmental Movement and the End of Reprocessing

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pp. 30-55

Beginning in the late 1950s and gathering steam through the 1960s, the modern environmental movement and the rise of organized opposition to nuclear power in the United States emerged on parallel tracks, as postwar horror at the human consequences of the atomic bomb deepened and awareness of the environmental consequences of industrial development grew. These often intertwined social and political movements also displayed certain affinities with the civil rights movement...

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Federal Nuclear Waste Disposal Initiatives and Legislation

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pp. 56-72

In response to the end of reprocessing, the state moratoriums on new power plants, and growing public concern over the failure of the federal government to develop a coherent policy for disposal of the more highly radioactive forms of both civilian and defense wastes, President Carter sought to engage experts and the broader public in an effort to build consensus on a new comprehensive national nuclear waste policy. In March 1978, he convened the Interagency Review Group on Nuclear Waste Management (IRG), a commission comprising representatives of fourteen federal agencies...

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Yucca Abandoned: Repository Limbo, Orphan Waste Challenges

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pp. 73-83

As a consequence of the abandonment of Yucca by the Obama administration, the nation’s accumulated SNF and HLW now lack a disposal pathway. The NWPA strategy for dealing with the nation’s most highly radioactive wastes—a strategy that has been the fundamental underpinning of government nucle...

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2. Radioactive Waste Classification and Regulation

The classification in legally defined categories of radioactive material produced by nuclear facilities has important regulatory and liability consequences, including requirements as to management, storage, treatment, packaging, transportation, and disposal. Most radioactive wastes are produced by the various stages in the uranium fuel cycle for producing electric power or nuclear weapons material. Smaller amounts of wastes are produced in connection with the use of radioactive materials...

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Nuclear Wastes and Their Regulatory Classification

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pp. 85-94

Environmental, health, and safety (EHS) regulation of nuclear wastes must consider the radioactive characteristics of various types of wastes, the human health and ecological risks they pose, and the appropriate means of managing those risks at an acceptable level—including, potentially, precluding their production. The hazards posed by the various radioactive elements contained in nuclear...

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Nuclear Waste Regulatory Classification and Requirements

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pp. 95-101

This subsection provides a more detailed account of current U.S. regulatory classifications for the most important radioactive wastes and associated regulatory requirements and disposal practices. LLW is defined by the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985 (LLRWPAA) to consist of all radioactive material other than HLW, SNF, TRU...

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HLW Reclassification Initiatives

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pp. 102-110

This section reviews the legal and policy issues presented by DOE plans for classifying and disposing of certain reprocessing wastes as LLW, rather than disposing of them as HLW in a repository. Given the high costs of treating and vitrifying wastes for repository disposal and the uncertainty as to whether or when a repository to receive such wastes may be available, the issues involved have broad policy significance...

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Mixed Waste

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pp. 111-112

The 1987 Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) Amendments to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, also known as Superfund) applied hazardous substance cleanup liabilities and requirements to DOE and other federal facilities, while the 1992 Federal Facilities Compliance Act (FFCA) amended RCRA to subject DOE...

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Toward a More Risk-Based System of Radioactive Waste Classification and Regulation

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pp. 113-121

As this chapter abundantly demonstrates, the current U.S. nuclear waste regulatory classification system has evolved in patchwork fashion over decades, through various congressional and state statutes; federal and state and agency regulations...

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p. 122-122

Any nuclear waste regulatory system must classify wastes according to the hazards they present and seek to match regulatory requirements with the classifications in order to appropriately protect the public health and the environment. Because of institutional and other practical considerations, no regulatory system can achieve a perfect fit. The current U.S. system of classification and regulation was not developed according to a single plan or consistent set of principles...

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3. Nuclear Waste Transport

The primary federal agencies responsible for regulating the transportation (including packaging and handling) of nuclear wastes are DOE, NRC, and the Department of Transportation (DOT). They work in conjunction with state and local authorities and regional transportation planning boards. The current distribution of regulatory authorities is summarized here first, then discussed in greater detail...

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The Evolution of Nuclear Waste Transport Regulation

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pp. 124-128

AEC was originally assigned by Congress the regulatory responsibilities over nuclear waste transportation that are now charged to NRC, DOT, and DOE. Under the broad authorities granted to AEC by the 1954 Atomic Energy Act, which includes authority over “the transfer, delivery, receipt, acquisition, possession, and use of nuclear materials,”7 AEC regulated and controlled all aspects of...

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The Current Nuclear Waste Transport Regulatory Structure

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pp. 129-132

NRC regulates nuclear waste packaging and related transportation matters, such as labeling packages, lifting and tie-down procedures, protecting workers and the public from radiation during transport, and receiving and opening packages upon delivery.65 Found at 10 C.F.R. Parts 20, 71, and 73, these standards specify acceptable...

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Experience with Nuclear Waste Transport

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pp. 133-134

Nuclear wastes, including LLW, SNF, and TRU waste, have been shipped regularly and extensively throughout the country for decades. No current, systematically gathered data exist, however, on all these shipments. We nonetheless know a great deal. For instance, large volumes of class A LLW have been shipped from reactor and other generator sites to disposal facilities, including by rail to the Clive, Utah, facility. Shipping from commercial facilities...

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Transportation of TRU for Disposal at WIPP

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pp. 135-139

The shipment of TRU wastes to WIPP represents the largest-scale U.S. program thus far for shipment of highly radioactive wastes. Given that there have been few accidents and no transportation-related releases of radiation documented since shipments of TRU began in 1999, the NAS Committee on Transportation of Radioactive Waste regards the WIPP transportation program...

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Transportation of SNF and HLW to Yucca Mountain

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pp. 140-141

The NAS Committee on Transportation of Radioactive Waste found in 2006 that transporting SNF and HLW to Yucca Mountain “will be a daunting task” because of the amount of material that must be shipped, the large number of stakeholders involved, the extent of the transportation network, and the long time frame during which the transportation network would...

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Assessing the Nuclear Waste Transportation Regime

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p. 142-142

The overall performance of the current nuclear waste transportation system for TRU, SNF, and HLW—to date based primarily on intermittent shipments of SNF and sustained shipments of substantial amounts of TRU from a relatively small number of sites to WIPP—has been positive and appears to have satisfactorily addressed states’ concerns about the risks involved. The greatest challenge going forward will be the need at some future point for transport of large volumes of SNF and HLW for permanent disposal or consolidated interim storage from many points of origin...

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pp. 143-144

The U.S. regime for regulation of nuclear waste transport has evolved into a mature and rather complex system involving three federal regulatory agencies, states, and private carriers. In recent years, the regime appears to have performed well in assuring safe transportation of the relatively small number of shipments of SNF, HLW, and TRU shipped to date. Large-scale transport of HLW and SNF, whether to repositories...

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4. Low-Level Waste Disposal

Low-level waste (LLW) is a residual regulatory category encompassing all radioactive fuel-cycle waste that is not spent nuclear fuel (SNF), high-level waste (HLW), or transuranic (TRU) waste. LLW comes from a variety of sources, including nuclear power plants, government defense programs, and commercial and research activities. LLW from defense sources, including DOE nuclear weapons–related waste and navy waste, is managed and regulated by DOE and is not subject to NRC regulation...

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Early Developments

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p. 146-146

Between 1962 and 1971, six commercial disposal sites for civilian LLW were built by private parties. They were located at Beatty, Nevada; Sheffield, Illinois; Richland, Washington; Maxey Flats, Kentucky; West Valley, New York; and Barnwell, South Carolina.13 The Nevada, Kentucky, New York, and South Carolina facilities were all licensed by their host Agreement States. The Richland and Sheffield facilities...

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The 1980 Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act

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pp. 147-148

While NRC was drafting its LLW regulations, a LLW disposal crisis was looming. By 1978, the Sheffield, West Valley, and Maxey Flats facilities had been closed because radionuclides were leaking from the facilities’ protective trenches.23 In 1979, Beatty and Richland were temporarily shut down for several weeks when arriving waste containers at both facilities were discovered to be leaking.24 For a time, only one LLW facility remained operational: the Barnwell facility in South Carolina...

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The 1985 Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act Amendments

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pp. 149-153

The compact system adopted by Congress in 1980 failed to produce any new LLW facilities. By 1985, thirty-seven states had entered into compacts, but not a single one of these compacts had been approved by Congress, because of opposition from states without sites and states from other compacts.46 Many states without sites were loath to have Congress approve the three compacts that...

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The Current LLW Disposal Situation

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pp. 154-156

Under LLRWPAA, states with existing disposal facilities were no longer required, after December 31, 1992, to provide access to out-of-state waste generators.91 A flurry of activity sprang up soon after this deadline passed. Bowing to political pressures, the governor of Nevada closed the Beatty site to LLW by executive order.92 Washington limited the Richland site to LLW generated by the Northwest and Rocky Mountain Compacts....

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Options for Addressing LLW Disposal Problems

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pp. 157-160

The Clive facility, which handles 99 percent of the nation’s commercial class A waste, has ample capacity, without further expansion, to accommodate projected volumes of class A waste for the next fifteen years.127 Barnwell’s 2008 closure to out-of-compact waste, however, poses a major challenge for disposal of class B and...

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pp. 160-161

After thirty years, the LLRWPA system for disposal of civilian LLW through the state compact system has proven a failure. The act, stripped by the New York decision of a key goad, has failed to generate sufficient incentives for states to develop a national system of regional disposal facilities. The compact system has also been riddled by gerrymandering and political and financial gamesmanship...

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5. WIPP: The Rocky Road to Success

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is the only operating deep geologic repository for disposal of long-lived nuclear wastes in the world. It has been receiving and emplacing defense TRU wastes for more than a decade. This chapter recounts the checkered, uncertain, but ultimately successful story of its development over more than twenty-five years. In doing so, the chapter identifies key features of the WIPP development process that help explain how siting, construction...

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The Origins of WIPP

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p. 162-162

A 1969 fire at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility set off a train of events that eventually spurred the federal government to site and develop a geologic repository for transuranic wastes—and also possibly for defense HLW and civilian and defense SNF. After an initial AEC attempt to develop a repository at Lyons, Kansas (Project Salt Vault), ended in failure,1 AEC’s search for another salt-bed location eventually, in 1975, targeted the Los Medanos site within the Salado...

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Restriction of WIPP to Defense TRU

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pp. 163-167

From the earliest stages, the exact type of nuclear waste to be handled at WIPP was unresolved; this issue remained in flux for many years. There is evidence that ERDA initially envisioned that WIPP would serve as a pilot facility for disposal of HLW from SNF reprocessing (which would require NRC licensing of the facility), but in 1975, at the time when federal support for SNF reprocessing was ending, it decided not to proceed with this concept and redefined WIPP as a TRU disposal facility (which would not...

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New Mexico's Successful Efforts to Gain a Role in Decision Making Regarding WIPP

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pp. 168-171

Beginning in the late 1970s, the State of New Mexico began to play a far more assertive role in the development of WIPP. The New Mexico Radioactive Waste Consultation Act created an executive task force, which led and coordinated the state’s activities and policies regarding WIPP and its interaction with DOE and other stakeholders.74 The state began to use an effective combination of state legislation, initiatives by the task force, political pressures through the New Mexico delegation...

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New Mexico: Federal Interactions and Resolution of Conflicts, 1980–1992

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pp. 171-175

This section describes how disputes between state and federal officials during WIPP’s development were resolved under the structure established by the WIPP Authorization Act. Resolution of the first of these conflicts, which yielded a formal agreement between DOE and the state in July 1981,102 framed and furthered resolution...

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Controversy over Land Withdrawal for WIPP, 1989–1992

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pp. 175-178

WIPP’s surface and underground physical structures were nearly all constructed by 1988, but the facility would not become operational for another eleven years.161 As of that time, DOE had obtained four land withdrawals under FLPMA, all of them for limited periods. A critical final step in bringing the facility into operation was...

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Restoring WIPP's Credibility, 1992–1996

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p. 179-179

In 1992, Congress enacted the WIPP Land Withdrawal Act (WIPPLWA), authorizing full-scale operation of WIPP for disposal of defense TRU. The act directed EPA to adopt site-specific radiation standards for the WIPP repository, to certify WIPP’s compliance with the EPA standards before it could begin full operation, and to recertify its continuing compliance with those standards every five years thereafter.195...

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WIPP Moves into Full-Scale Operation as a TRU Repository

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pp. 180-184

for DOE’s compliance certification application, and DOE submitted a draft of the application. 214 The New Mexico EEG expressed approval of the methodology used in the draft compliance certification application but raised concerns over its lack of detailed findings.215 EPA made similar criticisms when it reviewed DOE’s final application...

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pp. 184-185

The history of WIPP illustrates vividly how a working relationship between the federal government and a host locality and states can evolve in a mixed dynamic of contention and cooperation that ultimately succeeds in satisfying the basic interests of most major stakeholders. The legal and political safeguards of federalism, which New Mexico invoked through litigation, its congressional delegation, the RCRA permit authority that it eventually acquired, and other means, enabled it to gain a voice in decisions about WIPP and to have significant influence over...

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6. Yucca Mountain: Blueprint for Failure

The history of the proposed Yucca Mountain, Nevada, repository contrasts sharply with that of WIPP. WIPP was successfully sited and built and has been operating as a repository for TRU waste for more than eleven years. Yucca, after a protracted siting and licensing process, has been abandoned, at least for now, leaving the country to deal with large stockpiles of SNF and HLW that have no other foreseeable or lawful disposal pathway. Since these two projects have...

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The 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act and Its Implementation by DOE

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pp. 187-194

This section reviews the background of the 1982 NWPA; DOE’s implementation of the site selection process that it provides; the problems created by the tight timetable that Congress decreed, compounded by the political resistance in potential host states; and the political calculations and processes that led Congress to amend...

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DOE's Implementation of the NWPA Siting Process

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pp. 195-200

Notwithstanding NRC’s Waste Confidence Decision of 1984, which concluded that permanent disposal of SNF was well enough in hand to justify operating new nuclear power plants, optimism about developing repositories faded in the five years after NWPA’s passage.108 Key events of those years included the winnowing of potential first-repository host states in the West amid increasing controversy...

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Crisis in the NWPA Siting Scheme

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pp. 201-206

By late 1986, it had become clear that the ambitious plan for disposing of SNF and HLW adopted by Congress in 1982 was in very serious trouble.187 While DOE had succeeded in selecting the final three candidate sites for the first repository, its site selection process was widely criticized, and all three states in which the sites were located strongly opposed a repository within their borders; Texas and Nevada had brought litigation...

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The 1987 Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act and Resistance to a Yucca Repository

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pp. 207-209

In light of the delays in meeting the NWPA siting schedule, escalation in the costs of detailed characterization of the final three candidate sites, mounting state and local opposition to repositories, growing SNF inventories, and the looming 1998 deadline for federal assumption of responsibility for SNF, key members of Congress became convinced that NWPA needed a drastic overhaul. The Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act, enacted December 22, 1987, short-circuited...

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Nevada's Legal Actions to Thwart a Repository at Yucca Mountain

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pp. 210-213

The State of Nevada brought numerous lawsuits to challenge and retard DOE’s efforts to site a repository at Yucca Mountain, both under the 1982 NWPA and the 1987 amendments, including suits seeking federal funding for activities that the state could use to defeat the facility and suits raising constitutional challenges and other novel theories to overturn congressional designation of Yucca...

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The Battle for Public Opinion

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pp. 214-215

Nevada mounted an extensive public relations campaign against a repository at Yucca Mountain, publicizing unfavorable reports about DOE’s management of nuclear wastes and the Yucca site that had been issued by GAO, NRC, the press, and others.316 These adverse reports included charges that DOE had delayed release of an unfavorable report on seismic activity in the vicinity of Yucca until after passage...

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Responses to Repository Delay

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p. 216-216

Notwithstanding Congress’s intent to accelerate development of a repository by adopting the 1987 NWPA amendments, it soon became clear that the 1998 target for a federal takeover of SNF would not be met. In its 1989 plan for characterizing Yucca, DOE pushed back the repository’s estimated completion date from 2003 to 2010.337 In 1990, NRC, which had based its 1984 Waste Confidence Decision on the assumption that...

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Twists and Turns in the Technical Debate over Yucca

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pp. 217-221

Sharp technical debates over the Yucca site’s characteristics, its suitability for a repository, and the repository design have continued unabated for nearly three decades, from the initial DOE studies of Yucca as part of the NWPA site selection process, to characterization studies and the development of repository designs after the site was selected by Congress in 1987, and since presidential and congressional...

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Federal Designation of Yucca for a Repository, and Nevada's Continuing Resistance

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pp. 222-224

In 2002, DOE recommended to President Bush that he designate Yucca as the site for a federal repository, and the president did so.399 Nevada’s governor duly issued a notice of disapproval in April 2002, exercising Nevada’s right under Section 116 of NWPA to disapprove of the president’s designation of a federal repository site within its borders.400 In July 2002, both houses of Congress voted to override Nevada’s disapproval...

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DOE's Yucca License Application to NRC

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p. 225-225

DOE filed its construction license application for Yucca with NRC on June 3, 2008.430 On September 8, NRC docketed the application for decision.431 In October 2008, following a new rulemaking, EPA issued a revised version of the Yucca radiation standards that had been remanded to it by the D.C. Circuit in Nuclear Energy Institute.432 In its August 2005 notice of proposed rulemaking...

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Obama's Election as President: Political Victory for Nevada

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pp. 226-229

While the regulatory and other legal proceedings on Yucca dragged on, the impending timetable for NRC licensing of Yucca was overtaken by political developments that dramatically changed Nevada’s fortunes—namely, the 2008 presidential election and inauguration of the new Obama administration. As a candidate with his eye on the 2008 Nevada Democratic primary (the third such primary in the nation)...

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p. 230-230

Through NWPA, Congress sought to make up for thirty years of abject disregard, including its own, of the nation’s nuclear waste stockpiles by mandating a crash program for their permanent deposal. The means Congress chose were, in 1982, a centralized technocratic-meritocratic process administered by DOE...

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7. Options for Orphan Wastes

There are currently more than 62,500 metric tons of commercial SNF stored at reactor sites in thirty-five states around the country, along with large amounts of defense and nondefense HLW and SNF stored at DOE sites; all these wastes currently lack a disposition pathway.1 There are three basic options for developing a repository to dispose of these wastes: revive Yucca, dispose of them at or near WIPP, or develop a brand-new repository. All these alternatives face serious hurdles, and none could begin to...

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Continued SNF Storage at Reactors

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pp. 232-234

As of the beginning of 2010, over 62,500 metric tons of civilian SNF were being stored at seventy-seven reactor sites across thirty-five states.8 Additional SNF is accumulating at the rate of about 2,000 MTHM per year.9...

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Consolidated SNF Storage

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pp. 235-238

Development of consolidated storage facilities for SNF as an alternative to at-reactor storage has attracted episodic interest over the past thirty-five years. That interest has burgeoned more recently with the delays and uncertainties in developing a repository and with the Fukushima crisis.48 NWPA contains several provisions for federal interim storage facilities, and leaves open the possibility of private facilities...

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Evaluating Interim Storage Options

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pp. 239-241

The federal government, with the help of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, will have to confront the question of whether it is preferable to continue to store SNF at reactor sites, to have the federal government develop new consolidated storage facilities (whether at DOE sites or elsewhere), to promote development of private consolidated storage facilities, or some combination...

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SNF Reprocessing

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pp. 242-252

Another potential response to accumulated SNF is to reprocess it to extract plutonium and uranium to make fresh fuel. Reprocessing, of course, would over time itself produce significant quantities of radioactive wastes, including some quite hazardous wastes, that would require disposal. Past efforts to reprocess civilian SNF in the United States proved a dismal failure. As a result of President Carter’s ban on federal assistance, there has been no reprocessing of commercial SNF...

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p. 253-253

It is highly uncertain when a repository for disposal of SNF and HLW may be available. Prudent planning must proceed on the assumption that it could well be several decades or more. The basic options for dealing with the wastes in the interim are clear: for defense wastes, storage at DOE sites, most probably at the same sites where they are currently stored but also or alternatively...

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8. Nuclear Waste in the United States: Lessons Learned and Future Choices

This chapter first briefly recapitulates the highlights of the history of U.S. nuclear waste regulatory law and policy over the past sixty years and summarizes the current status of treatment, storage, and disposal actions and regulatory policies with respect to the categories of nuclear waste that have been the subject of this book. It then identifies and analyzes lessons gleaned from experience to date, especially with regard to siting and developing nuclear waste storage...

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Evolution of U.S. Nuclear Waste Policy: Recapitulation

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pp. 254-257

The history of U.S. nuclear waste law and policy begins with the Manhattan Project and the race to make an atomic bomb during World War II. Accumulation of defense nuclear waste, an unaddressed byproduct of that wartime effort, steadily increased, especially after the war, as the Cold War arms race spurred intensive new production of nuclear weapons. Reprocessing of irradiated fuel rods...

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Current Nuclear Waste Dilemmas and Options

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pp. 258-271

Most civilian class A, B, and C LLW is currently disposed of in three privately operated facilities located in Barnwell, South Carolina; Clive, Utah; and Richland, Washington.3 The Washington and South Carolina facilities, which were established in the 1960s, accept class A, B, and C LLW, but Richland is open only to the eleven states in the Northwest and Rocky Mountain Compact, and Barnwell is open only to the three states in the Atlantic Compact...

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Lessons Learned and Future Strategies for U.S. Nuclear Waste Policy

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pp. 272-306

Albeit flawed in some of its premises and assumptions, President Carter’s IRG was a thorough and reasoned effort to rethink and restructure a U.S. nuclear waste policy that was in serious disarray. The Obama administration’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, and the nation as a whole, faces a similar challenge today (see Table 8.2). U.S. nuclear waste law and policy is currently ruled by statutes...

Appendix A: Operating U.S. Nuclear Power Units by Year

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pp. 307-308

Appendix B: Uranium Oxide Spot Prices (per pound)

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pp. 309-310

Appendix C: The Hanford Waste Cleanup Agreement and Program

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pp. 311-314


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pp. 315-396


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pp. 397-412


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pp. 413-427

E-ISBN-13: 9780826517760
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826517746

Page Count: 446
Publication Year: 2011

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Subject Headings

  • Hazardous wastes -- Law and legislation -- United States.
  • Radioactive wastes -- Transportation -- Law and legislation -- United States.
  • Radioactive waste disposal -- Law and legislation -- United States.
  • Radioactive wastes -- United States.
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