WASHINGTON — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Wednesday denied a Nevada request for limits on how much nuclear waste the government should be allowed to store above ground at Yucca Mountain awaiting burial.
The NRC said it is too early to get into the details of how the Department of Energy is designing a nuclear waste repository for the Yucca site. DOE plans to lay out its blueprints when it applies to the NRC next summer for a construction license.
“The issues raised by the petition are best addressed during the agency’s review of the application, when a final design will be available,” the NRC said in a notice posted in the Federal Register.
The Energy Department is designing concrete pads where highly radioactive used nuclear fuel from utility plants would be “cooled” over time in concrete and steel casks until they reach desired temperatures for burial within the mountain.
Nevada officials protested the pads are being designed to hold an unacceptably large amount of waste, possibly 21,000 tons. Nuclear waste would be sent to Yucca Mountain much faster than DOE could possibly move it underground, they said.
If problems develop with the underground repository, the dangerous material could remain above-ground indefinitely, increasing risks from plane crashes, missile strikes or earthquakes, state officials charged.
It is one of a number of issues where Nevada and the Energy Department are expected eventually to clash either through lawsuits or during NRC license hearings.
“I am assuming we will revisit this issue when DOE submits its license application,” said Bob Loux, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects.More aboutYucca Mountain