PR-99-32 Changes To Regulations For Licensing In Nevada

United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Office of Public Affairs
Washington, DC 20555
Phone 301-415-8200   Fax 301-415-2234

        (Monday, February 22, 1999)


 The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is proposing to revise its regulations
 to add site-specific criteria for licensing a proposed geologic
 repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, for the disposal of spent nuclear
 fuel and high-level radioactive wastes.

 The criteria, which are being issued for public comment, would be
 contained in a new Part 63 of the Commission*s regulations.

 A different part of the Commission*s regulations, Part 60, issued in
 1983, contains criteria for licensing the disposal of spent fuel and
 high-level radioactive wastes in any geologic repository.  The NRC
 proposes to modify that regulation to make clear that it no longer
 applies to a repository at Yucca Mountain.

 The proposed changes are in response to the Energy Policy Act of 1992,
 which directed the NRC to modify its technical requirements and criteria
 to be consistent with health and safety standards to be issued by the
 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) specifically for Yucca Mountain.

 The EPA standards are to be based on 1995 recommendations of the National
 Academy of Sciences (NAS) and were to be issued not later than one year
 after the NAS findings were available to EPA .  The Act also directed NRC
 to make its modifications within one year after issuance of final EPA
 standards.  EPA has yet to issue its standards.  To meet the law*s
 schedule, NRC must develop regulations containing the modified criteria
 in parallel with EPA*s development of standards.

 Therefore, the NRC is proposing new, site-specific criteria for the
 proposed repository that it believes are consistent with the requirements
 of the Energy Policy Act and the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.  The NRC
 recognizes that when EPA issues its final standards or if Congress enacts
 new high-level waste legislation into law, NRC*s proposed regulations may
 need to be amended.

 The proposed new regulations specify that the repository system at Yucca
 Mountain must include both natural and engineered barriers to the release
 of radioactive material.  They also address licensing procedures,
 criteria for public participation, recordkeeping and reporting,
 monitoring and testing programs, performance confirmation, quality
 assurance, personnel training and certification, and emergency planning.

 The performance objectives for the repository would include these

 (1) After high-level waste has been placed in the repository and the
 facility has been permanently closed, the expected annual radiation dose
 to the average member of the so-called *critical group* from the
 radioactive material would not exceed 25 millirems per year.  (Critical
 group is defined as the hypothetical group of individuals expected to
 receive the greatest exposure to radioactive materials released from the
 repository.)  The 25-millirem all-pathways limit may be compared to the
 Commission*s overall annual public dose limit of 100 millirems.  The
 all-pathways limit will consider the dose contribution from the
 groundwater pathway.  It is useful to note that the average individual
 exposure from natural background radiation in the United States is
 approximately 300 millirems per year.

 (2) The repository*s engineered barrier system, working in combination
 with natural barriers, would seek to prevent the 25-millirem expected
 annual dose limit from being exceeded at any time during the first 10,000
 years after permanent closure.

 (3) Active and passive controls would reduce the potential for
 inadvertent human intrusion into the site.  If those controls failed 100
 years after permanent closure, and someone drilled a single, nearly
 vertical borehole into the repository and penetrated the waste package
 all the way to the saturated zone, the 25-milllirem expected annual dose
 limit would not be exceeded.

 (4) During normal repository operations, before permanent closure,
 radiation exposures to members of the public located beyond the site
 boundary would not exceed 25 millirems.

 In addition, the proposed regulations would preserve the option for
 retrieving waste on a reasonable schedule starting at any time up to 50
 years after waste emplacement begins, unless a different time period is
 approved  by the Commission.

 Other details of the proposed changes are contained in a Federal Register
 notice published today. 

 Interested persons are invited to submit written comments by May 10. 
 (Today*s Federal Register notice gave an incorrect date for submitting
 comments. Wednesday*s Federal Register will include a notice giving the
 correct, May 10 date).  The comments should be submitted  to the
 Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001,
 Attention: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff.  Comments may also be
 submitted electronically via the NRC*s interactive rulemaking web site at

  • NRC - 10 CFR Part 63: Disposal of High-Level Radioactive Wastes in a Proposed Geological Repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada; Proposed Rule