To the editor:
As directed by the Congress of the United States in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, the U.S. Department of Energy has submitted an application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license to build a deep-underground repository on federal land at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The application documents more than 20 years of scientific analyses and engineering, and demonstrates that the nation’s inventory of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste can be disposed of safely and isolated from the environment.
The license application reflects a massive science and technology effort encompassing the work of thousands of Nevadans representing numerous national laboratories, internationally renowned science and engineering firms, universities and the Department of Energy. More than $6 billion has been spent to date, a significant portion of which has been spent in Nevada.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is entirely independent of the Department of Energy, will now begin a preliminary review to decide whether to accept the application. If they find it sufficiently complete, they will begin a detailed and rigorous review of the application. This review will take several years and will include public hearings in Nevada that will allow public participation.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will grant a license to build the repository only if it concludes that the repository will protect the health and safety of the public now and into the far future.
As Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said on the day the license application was filed, we at the Department of Energy know that some of you have deeply felt concerns about the Yucca Mountain facility. We do not seek to dismiss or minimize them. On the contrary, issues of health, safety and security have been of paramount importance during the design process. They will continue to be of paramount importance to us as we go forward.
The Yucca Mountain repository program has been one of the most open government projects in history. Information about the repository and its design can be found at www.ocrwm.doe.gov. The license application itself as well as all of the documents that have been developed to support the application can be found at www.lsnnet.gov.
We encourage you to read this information for a better understanding of how the repository will work both to protect people and the environment as well as to solve our nation’s nuclear waste problem.
THE WRITER IS DIRECTOR OF THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY’S OFFICE OF CIVILIAN RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT.