In 2009, the Department of Energy announced it was halting work on Yucca Mountain in the Nevada desert which The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 established as the preferred and only site for permanent storage of nuclear waste. The law also committed the federal government to accept defense waste and commercial spent fuel for long-term storage. When the waste finally reached the depths of Yucca Mountain, it would be safe and secure. It was a solution forever sealed from human intervention.
The SRSCRO believes the federal government has broken faith with our communities and with others across the country that trusted implicitly in the Department of Energy’s commitment to complete Yucca Mountain as the nation’s preferred method of nuclear waste storage.
Over its 50 year history, the Savannah River Site did yeoman’s service in meeting the nation’s need for nuclear material. In the process, high-level wastes were produced and provisions were made for temporary storage of these waste materials on site.
The liquid high-level wastes were originally stored in more than 50 underground tanks at Savannah River. The waste was stored with the full expectation that a process would be identified that would lead to permanent disposal.
Today, the Savannah River Site has more than 3,000 canisters of legacy high level waste from the cold war stored on site. Another 3,000 to 4,000 canisters will be generated in processing the remaining liquid radioactive waste now in the aging tank farms at SRS. The finished product of all of this waste has been or will be processed with specifications for the eventual disposal in Yucca Mountain.
DOE’s action in terminating Yucca Mountain has the effect of turning the Savannah River Site and many other locations across the country into de facto permanent storage sites.
On October 16, 2014, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) published Volume 3 of its Safety Evaluation Report (SER) on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) license application for the proposed underground geologic nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The report is a result of a 2013 court ruling – AIKEN COUNTY, ET AL., PETITIONERS – that ordered resumption of the pending application review which NRC halted in 2010. It contains the staff’s finding that DOE’s repository design meets NRC’s post-closure performance objectives – providing multiple barriers to isolate radioactivity from the environment – and NRC’s standards for individual protection, human intrusion, and groundwater protection.
According to NRC, publication of SER Volume 3 is not indicative of NRC authorization to construct the repository. A final decision – subject to additional fund appropriation – could come after completion of the SER, a supplement to DOE’s EIS, hearings on contentions, and NRC review. The NRC expects to publish the SER volumes 2, 4, and 5 (Repository Safety Before Permanent Closure, Administrative and Programmatic Requirements, and License Specifications, respectively) by January 2015.
EnergyNow: Nuclear Waste and the Race for Resources – 11-6-2011 (YouTube video)