Energy Department welcomes NWTRB report

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 30, 2002 — The U.S. Department of Energy today welcomed a report of the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (NWTRB) regarding the ongoing scientific study of Yucca Mountain that provided valuable independent confirmation of a critical conclusion reached after 24 years and $4 billion of research.

The Board stated, and DOE agrees, that “no individual technical or scientific factor has been identified that would automatically eliminate Yucca Mountain from consideration as the site of a permanent repository” for the country’s nuclear waste.

In addition, the Department also agrees with another of the Board’s recommendations in the report that the Department “continue a vigorous, well-integrated scientific investigation to increase its fundamental understanding of the potential behavior of the repository system.”

The Department said Secretary Abraham welcomed the Board’s report. “The Department welcomes the Board’s statement that ‘no individual technical or scientific factor has been identified that would automatically eliminate Yucca Mountain from consideration.’ Moreover, the Department fully agrees, and believes that such a course of research, as contemplated by both the Board and the Secretary, will increase confidence in long-term projections of repository performance,” Under Secretary of Energy Robert Card said.

“The Secretary is committed to ensuring the safety of citizens of Nevada and of the nation, a timely recommendation on a repository, and an ongoing course of research that would last so long as the repository is in its operating and monitoring period-as much as 100-300 years after its opening,” Card said. “The Secretary looks forward to working with the Board in developing and conducting a course of research for the future.”

The Department also agrees with another of the Board’s findings that, “[e]liminating all uncertainty associated with estimates of repository performance would never be possible at any repository site.” The Department is committed to reducing uncertainties with estimates of performance thousands of years in the future, and will continue to prove its commitment through aggressively seeking and utilizing resources for important research, Card explained.

In addition, the Department notes that the Board did not disagree with the Department on the most pressing issue for this generation-that a repository at the site would be safe throughout its operating and monitoring period, hundreds of years into the future. In fact, Card said, there is no legitimate scientific organization that disagrees on this issue.

The Board also recognized in its report that it is a matter of policy on whether to proceed. If the President decides to recommend the site, the State of Nevada will have the opportunity to disapprove the recommendation, meaning that Congress would ultimately have the responsibility for designating a site for development. Proper exercise of this responsibility, along with the power of the Congress to fund the important research recommended by the Board, NRC, and the Department, will ensure that this project is conducted in the safest manner possible.

“The Board’s review of the 24 years of scientific study at Yucca Mountain is important, as is the decision on whether or not to address the country’s nuclear waste problem at this time, given the impacts to national security, environmental protection, and continued clean-up of nuclear waste,” Card said, noting that spent nuclear fuel and high level radioactive waste is currently scattered across 131 sites in 39 states.

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