Comments of Dr. Arjun Makhijani on Yucca Mountain and the draft EPA standard,submitted for the record of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on the “Examination of the Licensing Process for the Yucca Mountain Repository”

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Madam Chairman, I have prepared these comments on the proposed Yucca Mountain repository at the request of the staff of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. I appreciate the opportunity to present them for inclusion in the hearing record, should you so decide. My remarks are complemented by comments that Dr. Brice Smith and I prepared on the draft EPA Standard on Yucca Mountain in November 2005. I request that these comments also be included in the record.

I am president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and have authored or co-authored articles, reports, and books on issues connected to nuclear waste and its management and on other radiation-related issues. I hold a Ph.D. from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences of the University of California at Berkeley (1972), where I specialized in controlled nuclear fusion.

I wish to note three things at the outset:

  1. I support a sound repository program for spent fuel from presently licensed reactors and for Department of Energy high-level radioactive waste.
  2. The current Yucca Mountain program is far from sound. Yucca Mountain does not meet the most important criteria for a sound repository program. In my opinion, it is the worst repository site that has been investigated in the United States.
  3. Whatever course is chosen for a repository program, decades of storage of spent fuel at reactor sites is a near certainty. On site storage should be hardened to limit the most severe kinds of damage that are possible from terrorist attacks or accidents.

Let me amplify on the second point, since it illustrates the whole problem of Yucca Mountain licensing and standards, and, indeed, why the United States needs to start afresh with a repository program, instead of throwing good money after bad. I will focus on the problems of Yucca Mountain in relation to some important criteria by which a sound repository program can be judged (continue reading in the full comments)