Citizens Groups Sue EPA on the Yucca Mountain Radiation Protection
Nevada Scientist Finds Groundwater from Yucca Mountain Flows
National Research Council Recommends Additional Monitoring at WIPP
A coalition of national and Nevada-based environmental,
consumer advocacy, and public interest groups filed suit against
the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (or EPA) for its rule
that establishes radiation protection standards for the proposed
Yucca Mountain high-level nuclear waste repository. The EPA's
radiation protection rule, which was published in the Federal
Register on June 13, sets the standards by which the site's suitability
will be determined.
Gue, policy analyst with Public Citizen, one of the plaintiff
groups, said, "A stringent standard is vital to protect public
health and safety in the vicinity of the proposed repository.
The EPA's rule affords inadequate protection to the people of
Nevada and steers national nuclear waste policy in a dangerous
created an 18-km (or 12-mile) unregulated sacrifice zone around
the proposed repository in order to circumvent the Safe Drinking
Water Act requirements. The groups say that the sacrifice zone
allows the Department of Energy (or DOE) repository designs to
rely on dilution and dispersion, rather than containment, of the
Hadder, northern Nevada coordinator with Citizen Alert, one of
the plaintiff groups, said, "This undermines the purpose of the
radiation protection standards, by presuming that a repository
at Yucca Mountain will not contain nuclear waste throughout the
thousands of years it remains dangerous."
Adelman, senior attorney with Natural Resources Defense Council,
another one of the plaintiff groups, said, "We have advocated
a protective standard at all stages of the process leading up
to this rule being finalized. We are now bringing this issue before
the courts because our concerns have not been addressed."
A Nevada state scientist has found that the DOE's calculations for
the direction and speed of groundwater movement at Yucca Mountain could be
wrong. The study is still in progress, but hydrologist Linda Lehman has
found that radiation could escape from the proposed facility within the
10,000-year federal standard for groundwater contamination, and expose
citizens. Lehman found that the groundwater flows southwest towards
California along earthquake faults and fractures and that the radiation may
escape from the repository along those routes sooner than DOE estimates.
DOE scientists say that the groundwater flows east towards the Nevada Test
Site, and then south towards the Amargosa Valley. Lehman will publish her
results early next year.
A National Research Council committee told DOE that it should
conduct more monitoring at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (or WIPP) to
detect radioactivity leaking out from the nuclear waste dump near Carlsbad,
New Mexico. The 15-member committee said that "uncertainties" remain about
the facility's ability to meet 10,000-year federal performance
requirements. The committee recommended that DOE expand its monitoring for
the buildup of hydrogen and other gases, the brine and moisture traveling
into the repository, and the oil and gas drilling in the area. While
activists say that these issues are important, the committee should
recommend the closure of Panel One for waste disposal, oppose the shipments
of waste from the Nevada Test Site through the Big I construction, and
oppose the centralized waste characterization at the WIPP site for
scientific and technical reasons.
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