Section 112. (a) Guidelines. "... the Secretary [of Energy] ... shall issues general guidelines for
the recommendation of sites for repositories. Such guidelines shall specify detailed geologic
considerations that shall be primary criteria for the selection of sites in various geologic media.
Such guidelines shall specify factors that qualify or disqualify any site from development as a
repository, including factors pertaining to the location of valuable natural resources, hydrology,
geophysics, seismic activity, and atomic energy defense activities, proximity to water supplies,
proximity to populations, the effect upon the rights of users of water, and proximity to
components of the National Park System, the National Wildlife Refuge System, the National
Wild and Scenic Rivers System, the National Wilderness Preservation System, or National Forest
Lands. Such guidelines shall take into consideration the proximity to sites where high-level
radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel is generated or temporarily stored and the transportation
and safety factors in moving such waste to a repository. Such guidelines shall specify population
factors that will disqualify any site from development as a repository if any surface facility of
such repository would be located (1) in a highly populated areas; or (2) adjacent to an areas 1
mile by 1 mile having a population of not less than 1,000 individuals. Such guidelines shall also
require the Secretary to consider the cost and impact of transporting to the repository site the
solidified high-level radioactive waste and spent fuel to be disposed of in the repository and the
advantages of regional distribution in the siting of repositories. Such guidelines shall require the
Secretary to consider the various geologic media in which sites for repositories may be located
and, the extent practicable, to recommend sites in different geologic media."
In 1984, DOE issued a comprehensive set of guidelines after a lengthy public rulemaking
process. Those original guidelines contained qualifying and disqualifying conditions for factors
that encompassed each of the areas covered by Section 112 of the Act. While some of those
guidelines were applicable only to the comparison of various sites (something that became
unnecessary after 1987 when Congress directed DOE to evaluate only the Nevada site), the core
group of guidelines clearly were intended to provide the benchmarks by which the suitability of
Yucca Mountain could be assessed.
On December 17, 1996, DOE issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking initiating a major revision
to the siting guidelines which replaced the comprehensive set of specific and objective guidelines
with two very general and highly subjective ones. The new guidelines being proposed are as
"960.6-1 Postclosure system guideline
Qualifying Condition. The Geologic repository shall allow for the containment and isolation
of radioactive waste after permanent closure in accordance with the EPA standards
established specifically for the Yucca Mountain site and NRC regulations implementing those
960.6-2 Preclosure radiological safety system guideline
Qualifying Condition. During construction, operation, and closure, the geologic repository
shall perform in accordance with the EPA standards established specifically for the Yucca
Mountain site and the applicable safety requirements set forth in 10 CFR Parts 20 and 60
[NRC regulations] or their successor provisions."
The use of such non-specific and overly subjective guidelines appears to be in direct violation of
the requirements in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. In addition, the EPA standards referenced in
the proposed revisions have not yet been developed, and factors such as transportation,
population, conflicts with atomic energy defense activities, conflicts with the National Parks and
related systems, etc. will not be covered by the EPA standards or NRC regulations.
The proposed revisions appear to reflect DOE's unstated determination that Yucca Mountain
cannot be found suitable for development as a repository under the existing objective guidelines.
As a consequence, DOE appears to be attempting to change the measures by which the site is to
be judged and, in the process, modify the Nuclear Waste Policy Act by regulation.
DOE is accepting public comment on its proposed rule changes during the 60 day period which began with publication of the proposed revisions in the Federal Register (on 12/17/96). Individuals wishing to comment on the changes have until May 16, 1997 to do so. Comments can be sent to:
April Gill Yucca Mountain Site Characterization Office P.O. Box 98608 Las Vegas, Nevada 89193-8608E-mail: 10CFR960@notes.ymp.gov
DOE has scheduled a public hearing in Las Vegas on January 23, 1997 from 12:30pm to 4:30pm and from 6:00pm until all speakers have been accommodated. The hearing will be held at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Moyer Student Union, second level - lounge #201.