[ RadSafe ] NYT Article on EPA Yucca Mountain Standards

John Jacobus crispy_bird at yahoo.com
Thu Oct 13 11:58:23 CDT 2005

Sent to me by a coworker.

October 12, 2005

E.P.A. Hears Public Testimony on New Radiation


WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 - The Environmental Protection
Agency worked Tuesday to get the Yucca Mountain
nuclear waste repository back on track, taking
testimony from the public about its proposal to allow
distant generations to be exposed to higher doses of

At the same time, supporters and opponents of nuclear
power continued maneuvering in an effort to delay the
need for the repository, near Las Vegas, amid signs
that a three-year-old consensus on what to do with the
wastes might be fraying.

The E.P.A. is supposed to set the rules under which
Yucca would be licensed, but in July 2004, the United
States District Court for the District of Columbia
ruled that the standards were invalid because they
extended for only 10,000 years. In August of this year
the E.P.A. proposed a standard of one million years,
with the allowable radiation dose increasing about 23
times after the first 10,000 years. 

Under the standard for the first 10,000 years, the
most-exposed person would receive an annual dose of no
more than 15 millirem, an amount equal to about one
and a half chest X-rays. For the balance of a million
years it would be 350 millirem, which is roughly equal
to the total dose received by the average American
annually, from natural radiation and artificial

Elizabeth Cotsworth, director of the E.P.A.'s office
of indoor air and radiation, said the million-year
standard "represents 25,000 generations," far longer
than any other federal regulation. 

Lois Gibbs, founder of the Center for Health,
Environment and Justice, a nonprofit group, called the
extended standard as "a death sentence," saying the
standard that would apply after the first 10,000 years
was so high that one in 36 people exposed at that
level every year for a lifetime would contract cancer
as a result.

The E.P.A. has not said when it expects to have a
final rule. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is
supposed to use that rule to judge an application from
the Energy Department for a license for the project. 
The Energy Department was supposed to apply for a
license in 2004 but appears unlikely to do so before
the spring of 2006. Faced with that delay and with the
electric industry's interest in building new reactors,
members of Congress are proposing other approaches.
At the insistence of Representative David L. Hobson,
Republican of Ohio, the House version of the energy
and water appropriations bill for the current fiscal
year includes money for establishing above-ground
storage casks at Energy Department sites around the
country, and for research into "reprocessing," or
scavenging useful materials from the wastes. Some
physicists say the remaining radioactive wastes could
be converted into shorter-lived types, which would
simplify the disposal problem. 

The chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, Senator
Pete V. Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, favors
reprocessing, but the Senate version of the bill does
not include any money for temporary storage or

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company 

On Oct. 5, 1947, in the first televised White House address, President Truman asked Americans to refrain from eating meat on Tuesdays and poultry on Thursdays to help stockpile grain for starving people in Europe. 

-- John
John Jacobus, MS
Certified Health Physicist
e-mail:  crispy_bird at yahoo.com

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