March 1, 2006


“The findings indicate that it is time to move to the next phase of the Yucca Mountain project, and that is to begin the licensing process.”

WASHINGTON, DC – The Majority Staff of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works today released its report, Yucca Mountain: The Most Studied Real Estate on the Planet, to Committee chairman, Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), addressing the analyses conducted at the site, scientific issues, and the regulatory and legal challenges related to the site. Based on scientific conclusions after decades of study, the Committee’s report “supports opening Yucca Mountain without further delay as a critical component to nuclear renaissance and energy security in the United States.”

“I appreciate the time and hard work our Committee staff put into completing this important report,” Senator Inhofe said. “The findings indicate that it is time to move to the next phase of the Yucca Mountain project, and that is to begin the licensing process.

“The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 required the Department of Energy to provide a Federal repository for used nuclear fuel no later than January 31, 1998. Here we are seven years after that deadline and there is still no central repository for spent nuclear fuel. In fact, according to current scheduling projections, the placement of waste underground at the Yucca site would not take place until 2015 at the earliest, and then only if it receives full regulatory approval and the budget requests are met. That leaves the United States at least 17 years behind schedule.

“Nuclear energy makes up roughly 20% of our nation’s energy mix. If we are going to continue to grow this economy we need to take the pressure off of natural gas, expand our nuclear capacity, and increase our use of clean coal. In order to expand our nuclear capacity we have to solve the waste issue, which appears to be more of a political issue than a scientific issue.”

The report to the chairman addresses five topics:


50 years of international scientific study of nuclear waste disposal options The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 – Narrowing the options The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1987 – Focusing study on the best option 20 Years of Intensive Site Characterization Studies at Yucca Mountain The 2002 approval of Yucca Mountain – A decision based on sound science The Courts reject litigation challenging the 2002 Yucca Mountain approval

Margin of Safety

The most stringent radiation protection standards ever imposed Conservative assumptions Risks in perspective Cautiously looking into the future

Yucca Mountain Performance Assessment – Current State of Knowledge

Water infiltration into Yucca Mountain is low and well understood Multiple Barriers will provide defense-in-depth protection Key Technical Issues have been resolved

Future Reviews of Project and Oversight

Rigorous NRC licensing process lies ahead Monitoring and retrievability will provide for future enhancements Ongoing research and development on improved waste forms

Conclusion: A Time to Move Forward – Further Delay Is Not an Option

Extensive studies consistently show Yucca Mountain to be a sound site for nuclear waste disposal The cost of not moving forward is extremely high Nuclear waste disposal capability is an environmental imperative Nuclear waste disposal capability supports national security Demand for new nuclear plants also demands disposal capability