Department of Energy (U.S.) supplemental report on Yucca Mountain (Geological Repository) (August 2015)

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Supplement to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Environmental Impact Statement for a Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada, Draft Report For Comment (NUREG-2184)

This NUREG publication has been issued for public comment. Comments will be accepted until October 26, 2015. To submit comments, please see Docket ID Number NRC-2015-0051.

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Publication Information

Manuscript Completed: August 2015
Date Published: August 2015

Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001

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This “Supplement to the Department of Energy’s Environmental Impact Statement for a Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada” (supplement) evaluates the potential environmental impacts on groundwater and impacts associated with the discharge of any contaminated groundwater to the ground surface due to potential releases from a geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada. This supplements the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) 2002 “Final Environmental Impact Statement for a Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada” and 2008 “Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for a Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada,” in accordance with the findings and scope outlined in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff’s 2008 “Adoption Determination Report for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Environmental Impact Statements for the Proposed Geologic Repository at Yucca Mountain.”

This supplement describes the affected environment and assesses the potential environmental impacts with respect to potential contaminant releases from the repository that could be transported through the volcanic-alluvial aquifer in Fortymile Wash and the Amargosa Desert, and to the Furnace Creek/Middle Basin area of Death Valley. This supplement evaluates the potential radiological and nonradiological impacts—over a one million year period—on the aquifer environment, soils, ecology, and public health, as well as the potential for disproportionate impacts on minority or low-income populations. In addition, this supplement assesses the potential for cumulative impacts associated with other past, present, or reasonably foreseeable future actions. The NRC staff finds that all of the potential direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on the resources evaluated in this supplement would be SMALL.

Critics blame mismanagement for WIPP delay (August 2015)

This barrel at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant ruptured on Valentine’s Day 2014, releasing radioactive contamination that led to WIPP being shut down. (Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy)

Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal

The U.S. Department of Energy says its decision to indefinitely delay reopening a southeast New Mexico nuclear waste repository is due to safety concerns and equipment setbacks, but critics claim the holdup has as much to do with missteps and inadequate oversight.

DOE says it needs more time to ensure a safe recovery from last year’s underground fire and radiation leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, so the March 2016 target to restart some operations is no longer feasible. A new schedule is expected this fall – and is likely to come with increased costs above the original $500 million estimated.

But local watchdogs claim the delays stem from errors made by the site contractor and inadequate oversight by DOE – not just safety concerns.

John Heaton, head of the Carlsbad mayor’s Nuclear Task Force, rattled off a list of issues at WIPP, including ventilation equipment that was damaged en route from the manufacturer, a safety document that has taken more than eight months to rewrite, delays in decisions about how to permanently reconfigure the contaminated underground ventilation system – among other things.

“It’s just really frustrating,” he said. “How would you call it anything but incompetence?”

Earlier this month, a high-ranking DOE official highlighted WIPP’s progress in making repairs, decontaminating the underground caverns and sealing repository rooms but said the “schedule and cost plans” need to be revised.

“When we announced the recovery plan last September, we identified (March 2016) as a target date,” said Frank Marcinowski, deputy assistant DOE secretary for waste management, at a town hall meeting in Carlsbad. “That was based on the assumption that we believed it could be done safely. Right now we don’t believe the beginning of waste emplacement operations on that date is in anyone’s best interests.”

Also at the meeting was Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway. He reminded the audience that “the eyes of the entire world are on this facility right now.”

“Announcing a deadline and then not meeting it is harmful to the critical mission of cleaning up the nation’s transuranic waste,” he said, referring to the byproducts of the nation’s weapons production that can be disposed of at WIPP, including gloves, equipment and debris contaminated by radiation.

“We certainly recognize that some of these delays are due to safety concerns and respect the need for caution in these occurrences,” he said, “but it would not be fair to say the entire delay is due to safety. There were also delays caused by additional human error and by poorly developed procedural overlaps.”

For example, Heaton says, the damaged ventilation equipment: Nuclear Waste Partnership, the contractor that operates WIPP, ordered an interim ventilation system that it would install at WIPP to increase the air flow underground. Ever since the radiation leak contaminated a key air exhaust shaft, ventilation in the repository has been constrained, limiting the work that can be accomplished.

But the new interim system – a “huge piece of equipment,” Heaton says – was shipped 1,600 miles from Pittsburgh whole, instead of in parts.

“They knew what the risks were in terms of shipping,” Heaton said. “You are going to end up with broken welds, like we did. Now they have to go through the whole piece of equipment, recertify that everything is functioning the way it should. It’s a big, time-consuming process. If it had been shipped to us unassembled, it would have been in place and installed a month ago. Those are things that are unbelievable to me.”

In a statement, NWP faulted its vendors for the damage and said it is making repairs on site. The company said it expects to install the ventilation system next month.

“Upon discovery of the damage, Nuclear Waste Partnership immediately contacted the responsible vendor to develop a corrective action plan that ensured the unit was repaired to very specific nuclear industry quality assurance standards,” the company said, adding that “recent fabrication and shipping problems caused by vendors have prompted NWP to strengthen its quality assurance oversight.”

“The fundamental issue here is NWP is supposed to make sure these things don’t happen, whether it’s their employees, contractors or suppliers,” said Don Hancock, a longtime WIPP observer.

Cleanup on hold

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz touted a March 2016 reopening during a visit to Carlsbad a year ago in August, when he applauded WIPP’s recovery plan and reiterated the Obama administration’s commitment to the facility.

With WIPP closed to waste shipments since the February 2014 accidents, cleanup programs at nuclear laboratories from Washington to South Carolina – including at Los Alamos National Laboratory – have been put on hold.

Investigators lay much of the blame for the radiation release on Los Alamos, which improperly packaged a drum of nuclear waste with incompatible materials – including a combustible mix of nitrate salts and organic cat litter, used as an absorbent. Once placed underground at WIPP, the drum heated and ruptured, releasing plutonium and americium underground and, at low levels, into the environment.

DOE and NWP defend the slow-going recovery, saying that the pace reflects their commitment to safety and that progress has been made.

About 65 percent of the underground is considered a “controlled area,” where no protection against radiation is required. Storage panels packed with waste drums, including some that contain incompatible materials similar to the drum that ruptured, have been sealed. WIPP has also been catching up on critical maintenance, including bolting the repository’s salt ceiling, which must be continually secured to prevent a collapse.

“I can’t stress enough that the safety of the workplace is a top priority,” Marcinowski said at the town hall.

Twenty-two workers were contaminated at low levels by the radiation release.

Hancock, who runs Albuquerque’s Southwest Research and Information Center, has been pressing for DOE to roll back its plans for the soft reopening.

“The backing down on the schedule is a good move,” he said. “When you say you are interested in safety and you have a schedule, you are schedule-driven.”

By Lauren Villagran / Journal Staff Writer – Las Cruces Bureau
PUBLISHED: Sunday, August 23, 2015 at 12:05 am, as posted at

Yucca Mountain repository hearings announced (August 2015)

WASHINGTON — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Friday announced two public meetings in Nevada to discuss the latest environmental report on the proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

A Sept. 15 meeting is set for the Embassy Suites Convention Center at 3600 Paradise Road in Las Vegas.

On Sept. 17, the commission will hear comments at the Amargosa Community Center, 821 E. Amargosa Farm Road, in Amargosa Valley.

Both meetings will run from 7 to 9 p.m., the agency said.

The agency is collecting public comment on the supplemental environmental report released this month on the proposed nuclear waste site 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The report said particles of nuclear waste that might leak into groundwater from a Yucca Mountain repository would have only a small effect on health and safety.

The study has sparked a new round of debate over the project that was mothballed by President Barack Obama in 2010 but is the focus of revival talks among some congressmen.

Commission staff will hold a conference call from 11 a.m. to noon Wednesday to explain how to submit comments, with further information available on the its website.

A Sept. 3 meeting will be at commission headquarters in Rockville, Md., from noon to 2 p.m. PDT. The session will be webcast and a call-in line provided, the agency said. Further details are available at

On Oct. 15, the commission staff will conduct a final public meeting on a conference call from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Further information will be posted to the its meetings website, it said.

By Steve Tetreault, Las Vegas Review-Journal Washington Bureau,Contact Review-Journal Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault or 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @STetreaultDC, as posted at

Posted August 23, 2015 – 12:13am


ngressional staff members, media and Department of Energy employees wait for congressmen to emerge from the north portal during a congressional tour of the Yucca Mountain exploratory tunnel Thursday, April 9, 2015. (Review-Journal file)

UK go-ahead for dry fuel store (July 2011)

Governmental approval has been granted for the construction and operation of a dry storage facility for used nuclear fuel at Sizewell B, the UK’s only pressurized water reactor (PWR).

Building work on the store will begin in the summer of 2012, and is expected to take about 18 months. The facility will begin accepting fuel from 2015, according to plant owner and operator EDF Energy. The store will be located within the boundaries of the existing station site.

Referring to a six-week public consultation, Sizewell B station director Jim Crawford expressed the company’s pleasure at being able to start work on the new facility. “This is a mature technology that is widely used around the world to safely store spent fuel,” he said.

Sizewell B, which started up in 1995, is the UK’s newest nuclear power plant and its only PWR. Used fuel from the plant is currently stored on site in a fuel storage pond, which has sufficient capacity to last until 2015 by which time the dry storage facility should be operational.

When it is removed from a nuclear reactor, the highly radioactive and heat-producing used fuel is placed in a storage pond where it is cooled and its radioactivity rapidly decreases. It can ultimately be reprocessed to remove potentially reusable uranium-235 and plutonium, or disposed of as high-level radioactive waste. Dry storage is an interim measure available after the used fuel has spent several years in the pond, which involves placing it in welded metal canisters within concrete casks. It is in use at numerous nuclear facilities around the world – 55 sites are licenced to store used fuel in dry storage facilities in the USA alone.

The UK operates two reprocessing plants, both at the Sellafield site: a dedicated facility for reprocessing used fuel from the UK’s earlier Magnox nuclear power plants, most of which are now shut down, and the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (Thorp), which was commissioned in 1994 and has treated used fuel from the UK’s Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR) fleet and light water reactor fuels from overseas customers. However, there are no reprocessing contracts in place for used AGR fuel from 2007 onwards, nor for used fuel from Sizewell B.

A further 6600 tonnes of used AGR fuel is expected to arise by the end of the plants’ operating lifetimes – all are due to close down by 2023 – and will need to be treated or stored. The Department of Energy and Climate Change has stipulated that the new dry store is to used exclusively for used fuel and associated fuel components originating from the Sizewell B PWR plant.

The fate of the plutonium already separated from UK used fuel, and of used fuel from the AGR program, is under review as discussions continue on the future of Thorp, which will require refurbishment or replacement to tackle the AGR fuel inventory, and on the potential recycling of plutonium in mixed oxide fuel.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News, posted 25 July 2011 at

Test runs to start at UK dry fuel store (August 2015)

The UK regulator has given approval for the inactive commissioning process to begin at a dry nuclear fuel store at Sizewell B, the country’s first such nuclear fuel storage facility. Construction of the store began in early 2013.

Holtec International, which is supplying the storage facility, said the UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) had given plant owner EDF Energy permission to begin inactive commissioning of the HI-STORM MPC facility to test the dry storage implementation steps.

The company said that the inactive commissioning phase is expected to be completed in October, after which the plant will prepare for a scheduled outage. The loading of the first used fuel is scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2016.

The HI-STORM stainless steel multi-purpose canisters (MPCs), the transfer cask and the forced helium dehydration system, plus the ancillary equipment needed for fuel loading – all produced by Holtec Manufacturing Division (HMD) – are now at the Sizewell B site. The hauler transporter and the lifting transporter – manufactured jointly by HMD and J&R Engineering – have also been delivered there.

Construction of the new dry fuel store building is progressing, Holtec said, with the concrete slab, the cask transfer facility and the internal accommodation walls now complete.

Sizewell B is the UK’s only pressurized water reactor and has been operating since 1995. Used fuel from the UK’s Magnox and Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor fleets is sent to Sellafield for reprocessing, but all of Sizewell B’s used fuel has remained stored under water in an on-site fuel storage pond. The new dry fuel store will provide capacity for the unit’s used fuel for the lifetime of the power station or until a deep geological disposal facility is available.

Conditional planning permission for the facility was granted in July 2011. The store received the final go-ahead in September 2012 after plant owner and operator EDF Energy satisfied the local planning authority, the Suffolk Coastal District Council Planning Committee, about the steps it had taken to meet those conditions.

Although dry stores for used fuel are in use in many locations around the world, the Sizewell B store will be the first such facility in the UK. Holtec noted that Sizewell B will be the third site in Europe to be equipped with the HI-STORM technology, the other two being the José Cabrera (also known as Zorita) and Ascó nuclear power plants in Spain. A large HI-STORM central storage facility is also under construction at Chernobyl in Ukraine.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News, posted 20 August 2015 at

Will Finland’s deep geological repository serve as a model for Czechs’ own spent nucl ear fuel site? (August 2015)

There are seven potential sites in the Czech Republic which could one day house a deep geological repository for the permanent storage of spent nuclear fuel. Recently, elected officials from local municipalities had a chance to visit just such an installation – which will be the first in the world – under construction in Finland. It is thought the Finnish repository could serve as a model for the Czech Republic’s own.

Photo: archive of the Radioactive Waste Depository Authority

A deep geological site hundreds of metres below ground in Onkalo, Finland, is expected to be operational in 2022, becoming the first such repository not for temporary but for the permanent storage of spent nuclear fuel. The Czech Republic, with two nuclear power plants, has long sought its own deep storage solution, with the aim of a successful site being chosen and a facility being constructed and operational by 2065.

Opposition, in municipalities near suitable locations, not surprisingly, has been high. The Radioactive Waste Depository Authority, which in the past promised financial incentives for local municipalities, is hoping that will change.

Recently, a delegation including elected officials from several localities had the chance to visit the site under construction in Finland. The repository could serve as an example, says the Radioactive Waste Depository Authority’s Jiří Slovák. He described what the Czech site might one day look like.

“The site would be located 500 metres below ground and would have special storage hallways. Each hallway would have vertical shafts in the floor which would be lined with a ring of bentonite. The storage container with the spent fuel would then be lowered down and the whole thing would be covered in concrete. The full hall would then be filled in with bentonite and permanently blocked off.”

Minister for Industry and Trade Jan Mládek told Czech Radio that the site in Finland was a good example as it was being built in similar geological conditions to the Czech Republic’s, meaning there was room to presumably share expertise in construction and safety.

Even so, not all mayors are convinced they could live with the construction of an enormous underground nuclear waste site near their municipality. Zdenka Klesalová, the mayor of Lodhéřov near Jindřichův Hradec, a village whose inhabitants voted 98 percent against the plan back in 2004, told Czech Radio’s Radiožurnál this:

“That is a very difficult question for me at this time. At this point, I find it hard to imagine what it would be like. It is possible but it depends what phase we are talking about. So technically, yes.”

If the Czech Republic is one day to have its own deep storage site, one of the other mayors who took part agreed that communication with Finnish representatives had been positive and made clear cooperation with the Finns was a positive way forward.

19-08-2015 15:43 | Jan Velinger | As posted at

UK resumes search for nuclear waste disposal site (August 2015)

The long search for a community willing to host a £4bn underground facility to dispose permanently of Britain’s nuclear waste will resume next month.

Radioactive Waste Management, the state body responsible for developing a “geological disposal facility”, will begin a public consultation over the best way to choose somewhere at least 200 metres deep, where hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of nuclear waste could be stored for 100,000 years in a specially engineered cavern.

At the same time, RWM will start a national geological survey, the first stage in identifying a candidate site. The British Geological Survey suggests that 30 per cent of the country has rock structures suitable for containing radioactive materials without risk of their leaking out.

The detailed selection process will get going in 2017, Alun Ellis, RWM science and technology director, told a media briefing in London on Monday.

The government has said the choice must be made on the principle of “volunteerism”. The community hosting the facility must be a willing partner, attracted by the economic gains on offer. Even after the main construction phase, “the facility would bring long-term highly paid jobs”, said Mr Ellis.

“A substantial part of the UK is technically suited to hosting a geological disposal facility,” he said, “but the other half of the equation is overcoming the social and political difficulties in finding a community that wants to host it.”

The search for somewhere to dispose of Britain’s radioactive waste — which mainly comes from nuclear power stations and to a much lesser extent from medical and industrial processes — started in the 1980s.

For a long time, the most likely location was West Cumbria, close to the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant which is the country’s largest single source of nuclear waste. That option died in 2013 when Cumbria county council decided against volunteering although two district councils, Copeland and Allerdale were in favour of at least allowing geological investigations to take place.

Other countries are also finding it hard to identify a geological disposal site. Only Sweden and Finland have decided where to put their facilities. The US designated Yucca Mountain in Nevada as its nuclear waste repository in 1987 but development of the facility remains in limbo, with intense opposition from environmentalists.

Scotland has opted out of the process of finding a deep disposal site for the UK as a whole and decided instead to continue storing its nuclear waste on secure ground-level sites.

But the view within government and the nuclear industry is that permanent disposal is preferable, according to Mr Ellis. “There is an intergenerational issue here,” he said. “The policy is that we are the generation who produced this waste and we should be dealing with it, rather than passing the liability on to future generations.”

The capital cost of building a geological disposal facility is estimated at £4bn up to the point when it is ready to receive its first consignment of waste — paid for by public funds. The total running cost over 100 years would be £12bn, including a contribution by operators of any new nuclear plants.

August 17, 2015 4:51 pm, Financial Times, Clive Cookson, Science Editor. As posted at:

Norway wants to dump nuclear waste on island (August 2015)

Norway’s government wants to dump 1,200 tons of radioactive waste on an island an hour south of Oslo, even though the waste company which owns the site believes it is too dangerous.
According to Norway’s VG newspaper, Norway’s Ministry of Industry has hired a Swedish consultant in order to overall the objections from NOAH, which owns the waste dump on Langøya, and so force it to take radioactive sludge from the Søve mines an hour inland.

“We are reacting very strongly to this,” Stein Lier Hansen, the chief executive of the the industrial trade group NHO, told the newspaper. “It’s simply startling that the ministry is trying to overturn the expert assessments of a private company.”

Sten Arthur Sælør, NOAH’s chairman, said that the government had first approached him about the using he Langøya site last year.

“We made two technical evaluations and both times we concluded that it unfortunately wouldn’t work,” he said.

But Lars Jacob Hiim, a state secretary in the Ministry of Industry, told the newspaper that the Ministry had now hired the state-owned Swedish Defence Research Agency to carry out the assessment.

“It is true that NOAH is wary of storing waste, because of the possibility that the radioactive material might leak into the sea,” he said. “That’s why we put out to tender a project to study whether it is safe to store radioactive waste there.”

The disused limestone quarry on Langøya has since 1993 been used by as landfill for hazardous inorganic waste, and is likely to become full within the next few years, with NOAH planning to move to a new site before 2022.

The radioactive slide at the Søve mines dates back to top-secret nuclear experiments from the immediate post war years.

In 2014, the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA) warned the ministry that a permanent dump needed to be found for the radioactive tailings.

Lier-Hansen pointed out that Finland had already developed nuclear dumping facilities where radioactive waste is disposed of deep in the bedrock.

“Placing radioactive waste in the middle of the Oslo Fjord, which is the fjord for two million Norwegians, is about as far from being smart as it’s possible to go,” he said. “At worst, an earthquake give radioactive leakage.”

The Swedish Defence Research Agency is die to deliver its report in Autumn.

Published: 14 Aug 2015 22:55 GMT+02:00 at

Nuclear-waste plant whistleblower wins settlement of $4.1 million (August 2015)

He says he was fired for expressing worries about a plan to turn radioactive sludge into glass.

When Walter Tamosaitis warned in 2011 that the Energy Department’s plans for a waste treatment plant at the former Hanford nuclear weapons complex were unsafe, he was demoted and put in a basement room with cardboard boxes and plywood for office furniture.

Tamosaitis had been leading a team of 100 scientists and engineers in designing a way to immobilize millions of gallons of highly toxic nuclear sludge as thick as peanut butter. The sludge, which could deliver a lethal dose of radiation to a nearby person within minutes, is stored in leaking underground tanks near the Columbia River in Washington state.

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Two years later, Tamosaitis was fired after 44 years with San Francisco-based engineering firm URS, which was later acquired by Los Angeles-based AECOM. He filed a wrongful termination suit but encountered some initial legal setbacks, and it looked as if he had been blackballed from the industry.

But on Wednesday, Tamosaitis won a $4.1 million settlement from AECOM, among the largest known legal damages paid out to a whistleblower in the Energy Department’s vast nuclear waste cleanup program.

“It was something I lived with every minute of every day over the last five years,” Tamosaitis, 68, said in an interview. “Hopefully, I have sent a message to young engineers to keep their honesty, integrity and courage intact.”

AECOM spokesman Ed Mayer said the company reached its resolution with Tamosaitis “in order to avoid the cost and distraction of litigation relating to events that occurred over five years ago. The company strongly disagrees that it retaliated against him in any manner.”

Tamosaitis led the research into transforming the toxic and radioactive sludge into solid glass that could theoretically be buried safely for thousands of years. Over time, Tamosaitis said he began to worry that the technology for chemically mixing the sludge was flawed, potentially allowing explosive hydrogen gas to build up inside large tanks and clumps of plutonium to form that could start a spontaneous nuclear reaction.

His warnings, although disputed by his employer, were taken seriously by independent federal safety investigators and by senior Energy Department officials. Within months, department officials said the plant’s design and construction failed to meet federal safety standards.

In 2013, then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu ordered a halt to the construction of two massive processing facilities at Hanford: the pretreatment plant and the high-level vitrification plant that would turn the waste into glass. The suspension continues to this day amid doubts about whether the plants could operate as designed. So far, more than $13 billion has been spent on the project.

Posted August 13, Updated August 14, By Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times, as posted at

Germany draws up new plan to dispose of nuclear waste (August 2015)

The German government has presented its plan for permanently disposing of nuclear waste. Critics say the proposal is a tacit admission that it is a bigger problem than it has ever acknowledged before.

Pausing only to get the okay from the cabinet, Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks gave a press conference on Wednesday to present the government’s brand new plan for dealing with radioactive waste.

The plan foresees two locations: one site for low- to medium-radioactive waste is already being converted – the Konrad Shaft, part of a disused iron ore mine near the town of Salzgitter in northern Germany. But the other location, for highly radioactive waste, has yet to be found.

The new news is that Konrad would not be extended, as had been previously proposed, and this unknown new location would therefore also have to house any radioactive waste produced between now and 2022, when Germany plans to shut down its last reactor.

August 12, 2015 – As posted at