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Proposed Yucca Mountain Standards to Protect Public Health For a Million Years

Release Date: 08/09/2005
Contact Information:


Contact: John Millett, 202-564-4355 / millett.john@epa.gov

(Washington, D.C.-August 9, 2005) EPA is proposing public health standards for the planned high-level radioactive waste disposal facility at Yucca Mountain, Nevada that will protect public health for 1 million years. Under the standards, people living close to the facility would not receive total radiation higher than natural levels people experience routinely in other areas of the country.

"It is an unprecedented scientific challenge to develop proposed standards today that will protect the next 25,000 generations of Americans," EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Jeffrey Holmstead said. "EPA met this challenge by using the best available scientific approaches and has issued a standard that will protect public health for a million years."

The proposed standards set a maximum dose level for the first 10,000 years, more than twice as long as recorded human history. To provide safety beyond 10,000 years to 1 million years, EPA is proposing a separate, higher dose limit based on natural background radiation levels that people currently live with in the United States. The proposed standards also require that the facility must withstand the effects of earthquakes, volcanoes and significantly increased rainfall while safely containing the waste during the 1 million-year period.

Congress authorized different federal agencies to perform different functions related to Yucca Mountain. EPA sets standards to protect human health and safety. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is responsible for implementing EPA's standards and determining if the Yucca Mountain facility can be safe enough to contain nuclear waste. The Department of Energy (DOE) owns, constructs, applies for licenses, and will operate the facility, should it be approved. The Yucca Mountain facility will open only if it meets EPA's standards to protect human health and the environment.

The proposed standards retain and add to EPA's original Yucca Mountain standards issued in 2001 and are also responsive to the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued in July 2004.

EPA will accept written public comment for 60 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register. The agency will also hold public hearings during the comment period. To learn more about this action, visit: http://www.epa.gov/radiation/yucca or call 1-800-331-9477.