US Senate Gives Green Light To Radwaste Disposal

The United States Senate has backed the designation of Yucca Mountain in Nevada as the national facility for the underground disposal of highly radioactive materials, including spent fuel from the country's operating nuclear power plants. The action was taken 9 July 2002 and paves the way for the US Department of Energy to seek licensing of the facility in keeping with the country's nuclear regulatory rules and policies.

The Yucca Mountain site is located in rock formations about 150 kilometers north of Las Vegas. The site is intended for the safe disposal of used reactor fuel from commercial nuclear power plants and high-level radioactive materials from Department of Energy (DOE) facilities and US defense applications.

If licensed for construction and operation, the Yucca site stands to become the USA's second geological repository for radioactive wastes. In March 1999, the US opened the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico for specific types of radioactive waste that must be safely contained and isolated for centuries. The IAEA participated in International Peer Reviews of both the Yucca Mountain and the WIPP safety assessment process at the request of the US Department of Energy. The Yucca review was done in 2001 and the WIPP review in 1997. See the Related Links box for previous WorldAtom coverage.

Last update: 12 November 2014