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RE: NIRS Update on High-Level Nuclear Waste Legislation (Mobile

Re: NIRS legislative summaries:

The ANS monthly Nuclear News has legislative summaries that are excellent.
If you are an ANS member, you can also receive the Washington office review
of hearings and legislation.  I am not sure if this is on the ANS web page,
but it might be.

Ruth F. Weiner, Ph. D.
Sandia National Laboratories 
MS 0718, POB 5800
Albuquerque, NM 87185-0718
505-844-4791; fax 505-844-0244

-----Original Message-----
From: Michael S Ford [mailto:MFORD@pantex.com]
Sent: Wednesday, July 07, 1999 7:34 AM
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: NIRS Update on High-Level Nuclear Waste Legislation (Mobile

FYI... this was forwarded to me.  Although I don't agree with the
analyses, I am envious of the NIRS's legislative summaries.  Does
anyone in the HPS leadership know if our DC folks could provide
this type of summary on current legislation?  I've seen limited
discussions in the news letters, but it's not very timely.

As for the article, NIRS wants it both ways:  they don't want to
dispose of nuke waste AND they don't want to separate the REAL
waste from the useable fuel.  It's obvious that their only acceptable
solution is to shut down all nukes (duh).  That should make that
know to all the folks in the Northeast US who were dropping like
flies during the heat wave this week... assisted by some of the rolling

Nuclear Information & Resource Service
Update on High-Level Nuclear Waste Legislation (Mobile Chernobyl)

Congress is busy working on nuclear waste legislation. Bills have
gained Committee approval and may be voted on by both the House
and Senate.

There have been substantial changes from previous versions of this
legislation, but both House and Senate proposals are anti-public
health and safety, anti-environment, anti-democracy, and simply
versions of the same old story of serving the needs of the nuclear
power industry.

Status and next expected action:

House: H.R. 45 (Upton, R-Michael and Townes, D-NY) was modified
Representative Barton (R-TX), Chair of the Subcommittee on Energy
and Power, and approved by the full Commerce Committee in April.
We believe House leadership will wait to bring the House bill to the
Floor for a vote until after the Senate concludes their debate on this

Senate: S. 1287 (Murkowski, R-AK), a new nuclear waste bill, was
approved by the Senate Energy Committee on June 16th. It is
entitled the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1999,
sponsored by Senator Frank Murkowski (R-AK), Chair of the Senate
Energy Committee. The bill is a departure from Murkowski's
previous S. 608, but support is still split almost evenly along party
lines. The Senate has, for the past 4 years, provided the necessary
margin of votes to sustain the veto which President Clinton has
threatened each year. We believe that this bill may go to the Senate
Floor in July. We are confident that President Clinton will veto this
bill in its current form.


Murkowski's "Compromise" is still not responsible nuclear waste

The bill (S. 1287) approved by the Senate Energy Committee would
continue the interim storage of high-level nuclear waste at reactor
sites where the waste is produced. The federal government (DOE)
would take title and assume liability for the waste, including all
storage costs. This payoff to the nuclear industry is offered in
exchange for settlement of the current utility legal challenges over
the DOE default on the missed 1998 deadline forcing DOE to start
taking the waste away to a repository. The "relief" would be available
going back to the time that the nuclear waste would have been
picked up under the original contracts. Alternately, the DOE might
compensate utilities for their storage costs if the utility prefers to
retain title and handle the storage itself.

One way to look at this is that we have basically won on the issue of
centralized interim storage. When we all took up this fight in 1994,
the date for operation of a "temporary" parking-lot style nuclear
waste dump next to Yucca Mountain was 1998. It is now 1999, and
such centralized interim storage is effectively off the table. This is
because the soonest a parking-lot style nuclear waste dump could
be operational is 2003. Given that the projected opening date for a
permanent repository at Yucca Mountain is 2010, centralized interim
storage has become a very expensive accessory - unless, of course,
it serves as the vestibule for the permanent repository. 

Nevertheless, congratulations to all who have helped generate
pressure on your Members of Congress to defeat the centralized
interim storage nuclear waste dump.

In his new bill (S. 1287), Murkowski has done just that, "canceling"
the interim site. However, he provides that the waste can move as
soon as there is a construction permit on a below-ground dump at
Yucca Mountain. 

Murkowski would also remove virtually ALL of the barriers to Yucca
Mountain's approval and licensing as the national high-level nuclear
waste permanent repository.

The new bill, S. 1287, would:

- permit centralized interim storage under a new guise called
"backup storage capacity".  This interim storage may be located
either at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, after 2007, or at a NRC licensed
private waste dump.

Several such private "storage sites" are currently under review.  The
dump site nearest to being licensed is located in Utah, on the land
of the Skull Valley Goshute Indian Band west of Salt Lake City.  If
NRC determines that a utility cannot continue to store additional
high-level nuclear waste onsite, the DOE is required to take title to
this waste and transport it to any of these so-called "temporary"

- remove EPA from any regulation of the permanent repository.
Under today's law, EPA is mandated to establish public radiation
safety standards which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission then
requires the DOE to meet. Murkowski's new bill, S. 1287,  would not
only ban EPA from setting radiation protection standards, but would
require NRC to set a radiation safety standard using severely
weakened criteria. The bill would instruct the NRC as to what the risk
of fatal cancer should be:

1 excess cancer death for every 1,000 AVERAGE individuals
exposed to radiation from Yucca Mountain at a distance of 20 km (12
miles) from the leaking repository site, during the first 10,000 years
after emplacement of the waste.  Thus, the bill disregards that: peak
doses are expected after 10,000 years; people may be living closer
than 12 miles away from the Yucca Mountain repository; many local
residents (pregnant women, children, the elderly, the infirm) may be
more susceptible to harm from radioactivity than an AVERAGE adult
male - traditionally, radiation standards are set for some hypothetical
"maximally exposed individual" who is not an average over a larger
group; other federal standards, such as Superfund site risk limits,
typically permit only 1 excess cancer death for every 10,000 to
100,000 or even 1,000,000 exposed individuals.

In addition, the bill prohibits the application of ground water safety
standards equivalent to the Safe Drinking Water Act , and also
prohibits consideration of climate change scenarios that do not
reflect the climate range at the site for the last 100,000 years. What
about global warming impacts?  For all of these reasons, such
severely weakened radiation safety standards are unconscionable.

- expressly prohibit NRC from establishing radionuclide release
limits, such as those found in the EPA rule that Yucca Mountain was
originally required to meet, and which currently apply to the Waste
Isolation Pilot Plant (military transuranic nuclear waste dump) in
New Mexico. Release limits are an important component of limiting
the overall release to the environment, whereas "risk" applies only to
an individual.

-  discard the objective criteria that are in current law and
regulations to define what characteristics a repository site must have
in order to be acceptable. Murkowski's S. 1287 would substitute a
"total system performance assessment" - which is effectively a series
of computer models that are based on data which even DOE admits
is spotty and lacking key elements, such as the impact of heat from
the waste on the rock of Yucca Mountain, and the resolution of
evidence suggesting the presence of a magma pocket below the
Mountain. The only criteria to decide whether to proceed with the
Yucca Mountain repository would be whether these models can be
made to show that the waste will kill only .9 average people or less
per 1,000 at 20 kilometers from the site.

There would be no other questions asked.

- raise very serious nuclear weapons proliferation concerns.  S.
1287's Title III, "Development of National Nuclear Spent Fuel
Strategy," would establish a new "Office of Spent Nuclear Fuel
Research." The office would be tasked with research and
development of "promising technologies for the treatment, recycling
and disposal" of nuclear waste, including reprocessing and
recycling of plutonium. This would be a flagrant violation of U.S.
non-proliferation policy, which does not support reprocessing and
seeks to reduce stockpiles of separated plutonium. The office would
also perform research and development on both accelerator and
reactor-based transmutation. The National Academy of Sciences has
raised grave doubts about this technology, and the costs of such a
program have been placed as high as $39 billion. The
pyroprocessing technology, that would be used to prepare
commercial radioactive waste for transmutation, also poses a
serious proliferation threat. According to DOE's own analysis, this
technology could easily be adapted to separate plutonium from the
waste stream.

Taken together, S. 1287's provisions roll back the few remaining
protections in today's law that might prevent the mistake of putting
the vast majority of our nuclear waste in a leaking hole at Yucca

This is not responsible nuclear waste policy.

Last December, 219 environmental advocacy groups petitioned DOE
to drop the Yucca Mountain repository project since the site violates
DOE's own guidelines. DOE denied the petition on the grounds that
they need to keep studying the site in order to get the information to
refute us. 

They did not say we were wrong. Yucca Mountain is going to leak.


In the House, H.R. 45 is a rocking boat 

H.R. 45 has many of the same provisions discussed above, though
in Rep. Barton's (R-TX) new version, a buffet of options is offered to
the nuclear utilities, again in exchange for dropping their legal
challenge to DOE. The options that a reactor owner may choose
from include: taking title onsite, or at private sites; covering storage
costs; and also centralized interim storage at Yucca Mountain. The
House bill sets the Yucca Mountain repository standard at 100
millirems to the average person. This corresponds to a 1 in 286 risk
of fatal cancer over a lifetime of exposure, a shockingly low standard
of radiation protection.

Perhaps most controversial is the proposal in the House bill to take
high-level nuclear waste "off budget" -- removing the waste program
from the federal budget. Currently, only the Post Office and Social
Security enjoy this special status of exemption from budget caps
and complex rules. Fiscally conservative members of the House
oppose this. 


We will keep you posted as things develop and will alert you to any
action required on your part.

Thank you for your ongoing support of the effort to defeat this
dangerous legislation.

Watch for an upcoming ACTION ALERT on S. 1287 next week.

---Mary Olson & Kevin Kamps, NIRS
The RADSAFE Frequently Asked Questions list, archives and subscription
information can be accessed at http://www.ehs.uiuc.edu/~rad/radsafe.html

The RADSAFE Frequently Asked Questions list, archives and subscription
information can be accessed at http://www.ehs.uiuc.edu/~rad/radsafe.html