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Update EPA repository standards, asks 12 orgs led by American Nuclear Society

Twelve organizations call on Congress to fund updates to Environmental Protection Agency standards for permanent storage of spent nuclear fuel.


Washington, D.C. - June 24, 2024 ( Newswire) The American Nuclear Society (ANS) joined 11 other energy and environmental organizations in calling on Congress to fund work by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a new, technology-neutral, generic environmental standard for the permanent disposal of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and high-level radioactive waste (HLW) in the United States.

Joining ANS - the not-for-profit scientific and educational organization and professional society for nuclear science and technology - in signing the letter were The Breakthrough Institute, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, ClearPath Action, Decommissioning Plant Coalition, Energy Communities Alliance, Good Energy Collective, The Nature Conservancy, Nuclear Innovation Alliance, Nuclear Waste Strategy Coalition, Third Way, and U.S. Nuclear Industry Council.

In the letter to leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees, the coalition requested an additional $3 million in Fiscal Year 2025 for the EPA's Office of Radiation and Indoor Air to work on the new standard. Finding that current regulations for the deep geological disposal of SNF and HLW need to be updated to reflect the current state of science and better align with international practices, ANS recently issued peer-reviewed recommendations to guide the development of a risk-informed, technology-inclusive repository standard.

"Current U.S. requirements for a long-term repository are inconsistent with modern international standards and regulations," read the letter.

"When the federal government begins the process of siting a geologic repository for disposal of high-level waste and commercial SNF, a new generic repository standard should first be in place," stated the letter. "Developing a new generic geologic repository standard is a five to ten-year endeavor and will not result in any changes to U.S. policy. Additionally, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) would then need to update its own related regulations to conform to the new EPA standard. Given the extended timeframe for this action, it is imperative that the EPA starts now on the development of a modern standard for future repositories."

The groups noted that updated standards will not impact any policies related to the Department of Energy's scuttled deep geological repository project at Yucca Mountain, Nevada that is still legally designated as the country's designation for the permanent storage of commercial SNF and HLW from nuclear power plants.

"The current quantity of high-level waste in America exceeds Yucca Mountain's maximum capacity, meaning a second repository must eventually be identified," explained the groups. "The update of this standard must be completed to prevent unnecessary delays and burdensome litigation when Congress chooses to pursue a second repository in the future."

The letter was sent to Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, along with Reps. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), chair and ranking member, respectively, of the House Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. An additional 24 House and Senate members received the letter as well.

Established in 1954, the American Nuclear Society (ANS) is an international professional organization of engineers, scientists, technologists, teachers, and healthcare providers devoted to the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology. Its more than 10,000 members represent government, academia, research laboratories, medical facilities, and private industry. ANS's mission is to advance, foster, and spur the development and application of nuclear science, engineering, and technology to benefit society.

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