EPA Issues Final Yucca Mountain Radiation Standards

EPA established radiation standards for the proposed spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste disposal facility at Yucca Mountain, Nev. EPA is required to set standards consistent with the findings and recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and satisfy a July 2004 court decision to extend the standards' duration. The agency says Yucca Mountain standards are in line with approaches used in the international radioactive waste management community and will mandate the facility to:

  • Retain the dose limit of 15 millirem per year for the first 10,000 years after disposal;
  • Establish a dose limit of 100 millirem annual exposure per year between 10,000 years and 1 million years;
  • Require the Department of Energy to consider the effects of climate change, earthquakes, volcanoes, and corrosion of the waste packages to safely contain the waste during the 1 million-year period; and
  • Be consistent with the recommendations of the NAS by establishing a radiological protection standard for this facility at the time of peak dose up to 1 million years after disposal.

Human exposure to radiation varies from natural sources, such as radon and ultraviolet radiation from the sun, and other sources, such as medical X-rays. The average annual radiation exposure from both naturally occurring and manmade sources for a person living in the United States has been estimated to be 360 millirem per year.

EPA, DOE, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission perform different functions related to Yucca Mountain. More information on this action and the roles of the three federal agencies is available on EPA's Web site at www.epa.gov/radiation/yucca.

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