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The Yucca Mountain Environmental Impact Statement Process
A Citizen Alert Factsheet

Updated 10/3/97

When Congress amended the Nuclear Waste Policy Act in 1987 (NWPAA), they designated Yucca Mountain, Nevada, as the only site to be considered as a high-level nuclear waste repository, removing all other sites which, until then, were also under consideration. The reasons for this were purely political, rather than scientific or technical. Yucca Mountain lies within the most earthquake-prone region of the country, which alone should have disqualified it from consideration long ago. However, because Nevada has only two representatives and two senators in Congress, we were an easy target for members of Congress representing more powerful states also under consideration for a repository. As a result, the 1987 amendments are often referred to by environmentalists and nuclear activists as the "Screw Nevada Bill."

Even more troubling than the politically-based nature of the decision to target Nevada alone for high-level waste, is the fact that to help insure approval of the site, Congress undermined key provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) with respect to the Yucca Mountain project. NWPAA as enacted limited the scope and extent of the evaluation of potential environmental impacts normally required in an environmental impact statement under NEPA. Specifically, NWPAA exempts the Yucca Mountain environmental impact statement from consideration of:

  • the need for a repository

  • the time of initial availability of the repository

  • alternative sites to Yucca Mountain

  • alternatives to geologic disposal of high-level waste.

In other words, Congress has significantly diminished the inherent value of conducting an environmental impact statement, in an apparent attempt to rubber stamp NEPA approval on the project.

The proposed Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1997, commonly known as the "Mobile Chernobyl Bill," contains similar provisions gutting environmental laws and regulations with respect to nuclear waste transportation and storage. Knowing that this project could never meet radiation guidelines established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other regulatory agencies charged with protecting our health and safety, Congress has included in the bill broad, sweeping exemptions from local, state, or federal environmental oversight of the transportation and storage process. For example, it prevents EPA from creating environmental standards governing the Yucca Mountain site, and raises limits on the amount of radiation in the drinking water near Yucca Mountain to a level 25 times higher than that at any other site.

We believe it is unfair and immoral for Congress to deal with the problem of nuclear waste by dumping it on a politically weak state in a site that is technically and scientifically unsuited for the task. We advocate storage of the waste on-site until a safe, equitable and scientifically sound solution to the problem can be found.

Yucca Mountain Site Characterization and EIS Timelines

NWPA 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act
Site Characterization 1998 Viability Assessment
Environmental Impact Statement August 1995 Notice of Intent
    Scoping meetings began
  December 1995 Scoping period closed
  January 1996 EIS activity deferred
  October 1996 EIS activity restarted
  May 1997 Comment summary document
  December 1997 Finish collecting baseline data
  August 1998 Finish impact analysis
  September 1998 Begin developing draft EIS
  July 1999 Draft EIS for public review
  October 1999 begin addressing public comments
  February 2000 Public comment period ends for draft EIS
    Begin preparing final EIS
  August 2000 Final EIS
  September 2000 Record of Decision
Licensing* 2002 License application
Construction* 2004 Construction authorization
  2008 Updated license application
& Operation
2010 First possible waste receipt at repository
Closure 2110  

* Some confirmatory testing will continue during these phases

For more information, please contact Citizen Alert.

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