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  Environmental Policy Issues

Nuclear Energy Issues
(Released March 2002)

 

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  1. Nuclear power and the environment: Comparative assessment of environmental and health impacts of electricity-generating systems

    Rashad, SM; Hammad, FH

    Applied Energy [Appl Energy], vol. 65, no. 1, pp. 211-229, 2000

    This paper deals with comparative assessment of the environmental and health impacts of nuclear and other electricity-generation systems. The study includes normal operations and accidents in the full energy chain analysis. The comparison of environmental impacts arising from the waste-management cycles associated with non-emission waste are also discussed. Nuclear power, while economically feasible and meeting 17% of the world's demand for electricity, is almost free of the air polluting gases that threaten the global climate. Comparing nuclear power with other sources for electricity generation in terms of their associated environmental releases of pollutant such as SO sub(2), NOX, CO sub(2), CH sub(4) and radioisotopes, taking into account the full fuel chains of supply option, nuclear power will help to reduce environmental degradation due to electricity generation activities. In view of CO sub(2) emission, the ranking order commences with hydro, followed by nuclear, wind and photovoltaic power plants. CO sub(2) emissions from a nuclear power plant are by two orders of magnitude lower than those of fossil-fuelled power plants. A consequent risk comparison between different energy sources has to include all phases of the whole energy cycle. Coal mine accidents have resulted in several 1000 acute deaths over the years. Then came hydropower, also resulting in many catastrophes and loss of human lives, followed by the oil and gas energy industries, last in the list is commercial nuclear energy, which has had a `bad' press because of the Chernobyl accident, resulting officially in 31 acute fatalities, and at least 145 latent fatalities. The paper offers some findings and conclusions on the role of nuclear power in protecting the global environment.

  2. Radioactive waste management and sustainable development

    Leon, JL-L

    NEA News [NEA News], vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 18-20, 2000

    Energy is an essential part of economic development, and contributes to increasing social stability by improving the quality of life. In order to achieve such improvement in the developing countries and to maintain it in the developed world, important increases in energy production will be required. Furthermore, it is probable that electricity production will increase more than that of other forms of energy, since it is convenient, versatile and clean at the point of use. As energy production and use will continue to increase, its effects on health and the environment must be controlled, in an attempt to reduce these effects to the extent possible, and thus meet the goals of sustainable development. Energy sources that do not pollute because of combustion gases, such as nuclear power and renewable energy sources, may be of vital importance as regards the reduction of emissions, but they are required to compete on a market in which fossil fuels are particularly abundant and at relatively low costs.

  3. Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada (Draft Supplement to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement of July 1999).

    EPA number: 010159DS, 139 pages, May 4, 2001

    PURPOSE: The construction, operation, monitoring, and eventual closure of a geologic repository for the disposal of spent nuclear fuel and other high-level radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain, located in central Nevada, is proposed. The waste is currently stored or projected to generated at 72 commercial and five Department of Energy (DOE) sites across the United States. The use of the Yucca Mountain site to dispose of all 70,000 metric tons and a No Action Alternative were addressed the draft EIS of July 1999. Under the Yucca Mountain Alternative, the DOE would dispose of the waste in the repository using the natural geologic features of the mountain and engineered barriers as a total system to ensure the long-term isolation of the materials from the accessible environment. The DOE would build the repository inside Yucca Mountain between 660 feet and 1,400 feet below the surface and between 570 and 1,200 feet above the water table. The proposed action would include the use of active institutional controls (controlled access, inspection, maintenance, etc.) through the end of the closure period, and the use of passive institutional controls (markers, engineered barriers, etc.) after the closure of the repository. The repository would be a large underground excavation with a number of interconnecting tunnels (known as drifts) that DOE would use for waste emplacement. DOE would receive materials at the repository as uncanistered fuel (spent fuel placed directly in a shipping cask), dual-purpose canisters (containment vessel structures designed to store and transport commercial spent fuel), or disposable canisters (canisters for spent fuel or high-level radioactive waste with multiple specialized overpacks to enable their storage, transportation, and emplacement in a repository). Material received at the repository would be unloaded from the shipping casks and placed in disposal containers that would then be sealed. The sealed disposal containers would be placed in emplacement drifts by remote-controlled handling vehicles. DOE would emplace 10,000 to 11,000 packages containing no more than a total of 70,000 metric tons of waste in the repository. Of that total, 63,000 metric tons would be spend nuclear fuel assemblies shipped from commercial sites. The remaining 7,000 metric tons would consist of 2,333 metric tons of DOE spent fuel and high-level radioactive waste currently estimate to be contained in approximately 8,315 canisters (the equivalent of 4, 667 metric tons that DOE would ship from DOE sites. The draft EIS also covered transportation of the hazardous materials to the site as well as their disposal and a 100-year monitoring period following closure. The estimated cost of the proposed action was $28.8 billion. This draft supplement to the draft EIS focuses on modifications to the repository design and operating modes. Issues include air quality, hydrology, biological resources, cultural resources, socioeconomics, occupational safety and health, accidents, noise, aesthetics, waste generation, environmental justice, transportation, offsite manufacturing, long-term performance, and utilities, energy, and materials. Specifically, the site would adopt the Science and Engineering Report flexible design, which includes the ability to operate the repository in a range of operating modes that address higher and lower temperatures and associated humidity conditions. POSITIVE IMPACTS: The storage of radioactive wastes in the repository would provide a safe, efficient means of disposing of existing radioactive wastes and allow continued develop of the nation's nuclear capabilities. NEGATIVE IMPACTS: Performance confirmation and repository construction, operation monitoring, and closure activities would require the use of 870 acres or noncontiguous area within a 150,000-acre area; the larger area would be permanently withdrawn from public access. Site disturbances would adversely affect up to 500 acres. The land would largely be under federal control, but state and private lands are also located within the area. In the case accidental releases or sabotage, the release of radionuclides could adversely affect the public or wildlife. No harmful release of radionuclides that could affect the public or wildlife would result during the construction, operation, or closure of the facility or the following closure of the facility unless thermal loads resulted in releases to groundwater flows. However, up to four cancer-related deaths could result from occupational exposures of repository workers to radionuclides. The transportation of nuclear waste could cause up to 34 cancer fatalities, and four traffic-related facilities. Native Americans would consider the establishment of the repository an intrusive element with respect to the spiritual integrity of the area. LEGAL MANDATES: Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, as amended. PRIOR REFERENCES: For the abstract of the draft EIS, see 99-0415D, Volume 23, Number 4.

  4. An accelerator-driven system for the destruction of nuclear waste

    Revol, J-P

    Progress in Nuclear Energy [Prog. Nuclear Energy], vol. 38, no. 1-2, pp. 153-166, 2001

    Progress in particle accelerator technology makes it possible to use a proton accelerator to produce energy and to destroy nuclear waste efficiently. The Energy Amplifier (EA) proposed by Carlo Rubbia and his group is a subcritical fast neutron system driven by a proton accelerator. It is particularly attractive for destroying, through fission, transuranic elements produced by present nuclear reactors. The EA could also transform efficiently and at minimal cost long-lived fission fragments using the concept of Adiabatic Resonance Crossing (ARC) recently tested at CERN with the TARC experiment. The ARC concept can be extended to several other domains of application (production of radioactive isotopes for medicine and industry, neutron research applications, etc.).

  5. Management of radioactive wastes and countermeasures of modified stabilization process

    Ezban, M; Lenoci, J; Horvath, I

    Environment Protection Engineering [Environ. Prot. Eng.], no. 1, pp. 13-22, 2001

    The paper presents a short review of a radioactive waste management, i.e. disposal practices for gases, liquids and solids discharged from nuclear power plants. In order to weaken a radioactive fallout into environment, several countermeasures, including natural zeolites, are taken. The article is concluded with some comments on the Balkan syndrome and on the energy production from the uranium fission reactions which in many countries of the world still presents more than 50% of the whole energy balance.

  6. Sustainable solutions for radioactive waste

    Leon, JL-L; Picot, C; Riotte, H

    OECD Observer [OECD Obs.], no. 226-227, pp. 18-19, 2001

    Nuclear energy could help in the battle to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but for many the production of nuclear waste outweighs this advantage. One important challenge is to convince an often reluctant public that with new waste disposal techniques, nuclear energy is worth a second look in the interests of sustainable development.

  7. Depleted Uranium Disposal Options

    Biwer, BM; Ranek, NL; Goldberg, MS; Avci, HI

    Practice Periodical of Hazardous, Toxic, and Radioactive Waste Management [Pract. Periodical Hazard., Toxic, Radioact. Waste Manage.], vol. 4, no. 2, p. 65, Apr 2000

    Depleted uranium hexafluoride (UF sub(6)) has been produced in the United States since the 1940s as part of both the military program and the civilian nuclear energy program. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is the agency responsible for managing most of the depleted UF sub(6) that has been produced in the United States. The total quantity of depleted UF sub(6) that DOE has to or will have to manage is approximately 700,000 Mg. Studies have been conducted to evaluate the various alternatives for managing this material. This paper evaluates and summarizes the alternative of disposal as low-level waste (LLW). Results of the analysis indicate that UF sub(6) needs to be converted to a more stable form, such as U sub(3)O sub(8), before disposal as LLW. Estimates of the environmental impacts of disposal in a dry environment are within the currently applicable standards and regulations. Of the currently operating LLW disposal facilities, available information indicates that either of two DOE facilities - the Hanford Site or the Nevada Test Site - or a commercial facility - Envirocare of Utah - would be able to dispose of up to the entire DOE inventory of depleted UF sub(6).

  8. Yucca mountain, the only game in town

    Rossin, David

    Nuclear Plant Journal [Nucl Plant J], vol. 18, no. 1, 35, 41, 48, Feb 2000

    The Yucca Mountain project is one of the Department of Energy's long-term program. This article discusses three topics concerning this project: keeping DOE long-term programs on track; available interim storage options for storing spent fuel; and whether the current approach by the DOE need any improvements to ensure on-time and successful completion.

  9. Technetium-99 chemistry in reducing groundwaters: Implications for the performance of a proposed high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada

    Pabalan, Roberto T; Turner, David R; Miklas, Michael PJr

    MATER RES SOC SYMP PROC, MATERIALS RESEARCH SOCIETY, WARRENDALE, PA, (USA), 2000, vol. 608, pp. 231-236,

    Performance assessment calculations by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission indicate that Tc-99 is a major contributor to dose to a hypothetical receptor group 20 km downgradient of a proposed high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, within the first 10,000 yr after permanent closure. This result is due in large part to the high solubility and low retardation of Tc under oxidizing conditions in the Yucca Mountain environment. Recent site characterization data on the chemistry of saturated zone groundwater at Yucca Mountain and vicinity indicate the presence of locally reducing geochemical conditions, which could decrease the solubility and enhance the sorption and retardation of Tc-99. In this study, a preliminary assessment of the potential effects of reducing conditions on the transport and release of Tc-99 was conducted. Sensitivity analyses using the NRC/CNWRA Total-system Performance Assessment code (TPA Version 3.2) indicate that decreased Tc solubility and increased Tc sorption due to reduction of Tc(7+) to Tc(4+) can significantly delay the arrival of Tc-99 at the receptor group location. Decreased Tc solubility can decrease the Tc-99 dose by three orders of magnitude relative to the TPA 3.2 base case. Enhanced Tc retardation in the tuff aquifer only does not greatly decrease the calculated Tc-99 peak dose, whereas increased Tc retardation in the alluvial aquifer alone prevents Tc-99 from reaching the receptor group in 50,000 yr. The release and transport of other redox-sensitive radioelements could be affected in a manner similar to Tc. Thus, reduced groundwater conditions could significantly enhance the performance of the geologic barrier system and reduce the dose to the receptor group.

  10. Considering the next generation of nuclear power plants

    Marcus, Gail H

    Prog. Nucl. Energy, vol. 37, no. 1-4, pp. 5-10, 2000

    Nuclear power will be needed for future energy demands, which are expected to grow at different rates around the world. The opportunities for building new nuclear power plants around the world will be depend on need, energy demand growth, and issues related to global warming and climate change. However, four major barriers exist for the expansion of nuclear power: economics, proliferation, safety, and waste. These issues must be addressed in the ongoing research and development of nuclear energy technology and applications. The evolution of nuclear power plant technology is presented as four distinct design generations: (1) prototypes, (2) current operating plants, (3) advanced light water reactor technology, and (4) revolutionary design concepts (i.e., Generation IV) that are now under development. The U.S. DOE Nuclear Energy Research Initiative (NERI) program is focused on the research and development of Generation IV designs that are safe, economic, proliferation-resistant, and will address current waste issues. NERI provides grants for independently peer-reviewed proposals from universities, national laboratories and industry for advanced nuclear research and development. Several NERI projects awarded in 1999 are described in terms of how they remove barriers to nuclear power plant expansion. Another DOE effort, the Accelerator Transmutation of Waste program, will seek to reduce and ameliorate civilian reactor waste. The Accelerator Transmutation of Waste program will involve a six-year science-based research plan to define key technical issues. Finally, the need for international collaboration is stressed for fourth-generation nuclear power technology development.

  11. Safety and environment aspects of a fusion power reactor

    Marbach, G; Cook, I

    Fusion Engineering and Design [Fusion Eng. Des.], vol. 46, no. 2-4, pp. 243-254, Nov 1999

    A fusion power plant possesses not only intrinsic advantages with respect to safety compared to other sources of energy, but also a negligible long term impact on the environment provided certain precautions are taken in its design and in the selection of structural materials. This was studied by the SEAFP (Safety and Environment Assessment of Fusion Power). Programme and studies for the long term have been pursued in Europe in the Framework of the SEAFP2 Program. An attempt is made to distinguish the safety options to be integrated into a fusion reactor. A vast range of postulated accidents have been analyzed involving parametric studies and special consideration has also been given to the waste management. The safety approach is reviewed in the light of the safety principles and nuclear regulatory reference system existing at international level. In addition lessons have been learnt from the safety analysis performed for ITER. It is confirmed that it is possible to fully benefit from the advantages of fusion energy if safety and environmental concerns are taken into account when considering the first prospective studies of a reactor design. Improvements in this way will need the continuation of R&D on reactor design and materials as well as specific R&D on safety aspects.

  12. Overview of scientific investigations at Yucca Mountain--the potential repository for high-level nuclear waste

    Bodvarsson, GS; Boyle, W; Patterson, R; Williams, D

    Journal of Contaminant Hydrology [J. Contam. Hydrol.], vol. 38, no. 1-3, pp. 3-24, May 1999

    The US Department of Energy (DOE) has been evaluating the unsaturated zone (UZ) at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, as a potential repository site for high level nuclear waste. A large number of boreholes have been drilled at the site, and an underground tunnel, the exploratory studies facility (ESF), has been constructed. A variety of boreholes and underground tests have been conducted that have provided large amounts of data from the UZ. This paper summarizes some of the current knowledge of geological and hydrological characteristics of the site and provides the framework for a series of technical papers that follow in this issue. A brief discussion is also given to the repository safety strategy for Yucca Mountain and the UZ site-scale flow model.

  13. High-level nuclear waste: The Status of Yucca Mountain

    Craig, PP

    Annual Review of Energy and the Environment [Annu. Rev. Energy Environ.], vol. 24, pp. 461-486, 1999

    Yucca Mountain, NV, is being characterized for disposal of U.S. high-level nuclear waste, which consists predominantly of spent fuel from nuclear reactors and radioactive waste from reprocessing. In this paper, the program is presented in the context of global and U.S. nuclear energy systems and of international plans for high-level waste disposal. The potential impact of the proposed repository is discussed in the context of the U.S. Department of Energy's Total System Performance Assessment-Viability Assessment, the primary tool for assessing how the repository might operate.

  14. Does nuclear energy have a chance in the political minefield between sustainability and competition?

    Bourdier, J-P

    VGB Powertech, vol. 79, no. 1, pp. 17-20, 1999

    Sustainability harmonizes economy and ecology. The demand for energy will continue to increase over and beyond several decades. Nuclear energy not only has the advantages of `energy on tap' (renewable energy), but also those of `energy in store'. However, it also creates problems, which should not be underestimated. But the criticism levelled at nuclear energy is open to criticism in itself. As far as the public is concerned, nuclear waste is still the main stumbling block. Nevertheless, there is room for this form of energy between competition and sustainability.

  15. Radioactive wastes

    Biedscheid, JA

    Water Environment Research [Water Environ. Res.], vol. 70, no. 4, pp. 745-752, Jun 1998

    In 1997, radioactive waste management around the world focused on solutions for the final disposal of low-, intermediate-, and high-level radioactive wastes; the interim storage of spent fuel; and the disposition of excess weapons plutonium. North (1997) reported that the U.S. government is focusing on disposal solutions for large inventories of high-level waste (HLW) and transuranic (TRU) waste from its weapons program, spent fuel, and low-level waste (LLW). The planned solutions are for the disposal of spent fuel and HLW in a geological repository at Yucca Mountain, Nev.; TRU waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southeastern New Mexico; and LLW at a collection of sites licensed by states. Barnes and Whatley (1997) explored the U.S. Department of Energy's (U.S. DOE) efforts to implement a permanent TRU waste disposal solution including U.S. Congressional mandates and other factors that have contributed to program changes associated with the proposed WIPP repository. The WIPP was highlighted in a summary of U.S. projects focused on reducing the long-term effects of HLW from spent fuel, TRU waste, and LLW. Renner (1997) described current methods of the U.S. DOE Office of Environmental Management for trimming costs and accomplishing more cleanup of radioactive wastes. Progress in resolving the storage of large volumes of radioactive wastes at the U.S. generation sites, many of which were not built for long-term use, was summarized.

  16. Future of nuclear energy in the world

    Barre, B

    Journal of Alloys and Compounds [J ALLOYS COMPD], vol. 271-273, pp. 1-5, 12 Jun 1998

    The world population will increase and there will be no sustainable development without a substantial call to nuclear power. To make this desirable future possible, one will have to resolve a number of interrelated economic and public acceptance issues; and some of these issues will depend upon the work on actinides. Hence, of paramount importance, for long term, is knowing the properties of major actinides and their chemical compounds.

  17. Nuclear and environmental risks: Problems of communication

    Tanaka, Yasumasa

    Pacific and Asian Journal of Energy [PAC ASIAN J ENERGY], vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 119-132, Jun 1998

    This paper examines the nature and use of risk communication relevant to nuclear and environmental problems. On the one band, nuclear energy is feared because it creates serious radiation risks associated both with reactor accidents, like the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl; and with high-level waste disposal, which is believed to involve many unknown factors. On the other hand, greenhouse gases are suspected to cause irreversible changes in the global climate that could affect the behaviour of the ocean, food production, the ecosystem, and human life. This present paper outlines a strategy of risk communication on how to cope with these long-lasting global risks. In doing so, some important variables that seem to affect risk communication, such as personality traits and perceived safety and necessity, are examined on the basis of recent empirical research conducted in Japan.

  18. The tainted desert: Environmental ruin in the American West

    Kuletz, VL

    ROUTLEDGE, NEW YORK, NY (USA), 1998, 336 pp

    Culture, power, politics, and environmental concerns collide in THE TAINTED DESERT as Valerie L. Kuletz outlines the consequences of nuclearism - which have been kept secret for more than fifty years - and documents the past, present, and future nuclear legacies of the United States and the world. This controversial and timely book exposes the level of buildup of nuclear waste in toxic dumps around the country and reveals the consequences that the Cold War arms race and thoughtless nuclear energy policy have had on America's inter-desert region and its inhabitants over the years. Kuletz combines interviews with scientists and Native Americans affected by the nuclear activity with concrete empirical data to shed light on both the scientific and human sides of this global controversy. Littered with eerily beautiful photographs of this poisoned land, THE TAINTED DESERT is an exploration of the American Southwest and the impending threat of a nuclear crisis. Kuletz focuses on issues of military secrecy, environmental racism, and the hazards to our health and safety of living with toxic waste.

  19. Nuclear Waste: Department of Energy's Hanford Tank Waste Project Schedule, Cost, and Management Issues

    General Accounting Office, Washington, DC. Resources, Community and Economic Development Division, Oct 1998, 34 pp.

    The Hanford Site, located in southeast Washington State, has one of the greatest concentrations of radioactive waste in the world. One of the most difficult cleanup challenges at Hanford involves the 177 underground storage tanks holding highly radioactive liquid waste, sludge, and other materials. Cleaning up this waste is important because it poses a significant risk to the environment and to surrounding communities. Recently, DOE disclosed that waste leaking from some of the tanks has reached the groundwater and threatens the nearby Columbia River (PB98118128, DE94012248, and DE94013746).

  20. Role of nuclear energy in mitigating greenhouse warming

    Krakowski, RA

    USDOE Assistant Secretary for Management and Administration, Washington, D.C., 31 Dec 1997, 31 pp.

    A behavioral, top-down, forced-equilibrium market model of long-term ((approximately) 2,100) global energy-economics interactions has been modified with a bottom-up nuclear energy model and used to construct consistent scenarios describing future impacts of civil nuclear materials flows in an expanding, multi-regional (13) world economy. The relative measures and tradeoffs between economic (GNP, tax impacts, productivity, etc.), environmental (greenhouse gas accumulations, waste accumulation, proliferation risk), and energy (resources, energy mixes, supply-side versus demand-side attributes) interactions that emerge from these analyses are focused herein on advancing understanding of the role that nuclear energy (and other non-carbon energy sources) might play in mitigating greenhouse warming. Two ostensibly opposing scenario drivers are investigated: (a) demand-side improvements in (non-price-induced) autonomous energy efficiency improvements; and (b) supply- side carbon-tax inducements to shift energy mixes towards reduced- or non- carbon forms. In terms of stemming greenhouse warming for minimal cost of greenhouse- gas abatement, and with the limitations of the simplified taxing schedule used, a symbiotic combination of these two approaches may offer advantages not found if each is applied separately.

  21. Fuel cycles of the future

    Ion, SE; Bonser, DR

    Nuclear Energy [NUCL ENERGY], vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 127-130, 1997

    A fuel cycle strategy should aim to: (a) maximize the utilization of fissile material, which is a global energy resource, by recycling unused uranium and plutonium from irradiated fuel and other sources; (b) maximize the economic benefits to nuclear utilities and their customers by optimizing total nuclear fuel cycle costs; (c) minimize the overall environmental impact of nuclear fuel cycle activities and the generation of waste that requires conditioning and disposal; (d) satisfy political and proliferation issues resulting from the need to manage existing stockpiles and future arisings of plutonium. These aims are not new and have been stated on a number of occasions. Historically the industry has looked to optimize each stage of the nuclear fuel cycle independently. This paper looks at the holistic approach BNFL is taking to ensure the economic and financial optimization of the nuclear fuel cycle as a whole.

  22. Monitoring deep subsurface microbiota for assessment of safe long-term nuclear waste disposal

    White, DC; Ringelberg, DB

    Canadian Journal of Microbiology/Revue Canadienne de Microbiologie [Can. J. Microbiol./Rev. Can. Microbiol.], vol. 42, no. 4, pp. 375-381, Apr 1996

    Microbes with their resistance to heat and radioactivity, if present and metabolically active, could have major effects on the safety of nuclear waste disposal by posing potential problems in long-term containment. This paper reviews the applicability of the signature lipid biomarker (SLB) analysis in the quantitative assessment of the viable biomass, community composition, and nutritional /physiological status of the subsurface microbiota as it exists in situ in subsurface samples. The samples described in this review are not unlike those expected to be recovered from proposed deep subsurface disposal sites. Assessment of the microbial community ecology using SLB analysis can be utilized to predict potential problems engendered by microbial metabolic activities of these communities in breaching containment by microbially facilitated corrosion and in the potential for subsequent facilitated transport of nuclides into the environment. SLB analysis of the in situ microbial ecology can be utilized to monitor the feasibility of containment options in modeling tests at the specific disposal sites.

  23. The geochemical environment of nuclear fuel waste disposal

    Gascoyne, M

    Canadian Journal of Microbiology/Revue Canadienne de Microbiologie [Can. J. Microbiol./Rev. Can. Microbiol.], vol. 42, no. 4, pp. 401-409, Apr 1996

    The concept for disposal of Canada's nuclear fuel waste in a geologic environment on the Canadian Shield has recently been presented by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) to governments, scientists, and the public, for review. An important part of this concept concerns the geochemical environment of a disposal vault and includes consideration of rock and groundwater compositions, geochemical interactions between rocks, groundwaters, and emplaced vault materials, and the influences and significance of anthropogenic and microbiological effects following closure of the vault. This paper summarizes the disposal concept and examines aspects of the geochemical environment. The presence of saline groundwaters and reducing conditions at proposed vault depths (500-1000 m) in the Canadian Shield has an important bearing on the stability of the used nuclear fuel, its container, and buffer and backfill materials. The potential for introduction of anthropogenic contaminants and microbes during site investigations and vault excavation, operation, and sealing is described with examples from AECL's research areas on the Shield and in their underground research laboratory in southeastern Manitoba.

  24. Health cost of a nuclear waste repository, WIPP

    Kula, E

    Environmental Management [ENVIRON. MANAGE.], vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 81-87, 1996

    The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WlPP), the United States of America's first nuclear waste dumping site, has over the years generated a great deal of concern and controversy. The most sensitive aspect of this project is that it may impose serious health risks on future generations. The first leg of this project is about to be completed and at the time of writing the Department of Energy is planning to perform experiments with a small quantity of waste for operational demonstrations. If everything goes well, then towards the end of this decade large quantities of wastes will be transported to the site for disposal. This article reconsiders the health cost of this project from an economic perspective in light of recent developments in the field of social discounting. As in earlier studies, two cases of health risks are considered: total cancer and genetic deformity over a one million year cutoff period. The analysis shows that whereas ordinary discounting method wipes out the future health detriments, expressed in monetary terms, the modified discounting criterion retains a substantial proportion of such costs in economic analysis.

  25. Civilian nuclear waste disposal

    Holt, M

    COMMITTEE FOR THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, WASHINGTON, DC 20006 (USA), 1996, 14 pp.

    The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (NWPA) calls for disposal of spent nuclear fuel in a repository in a deep geologic formation that is unlikely to be disturbed for thousands of years. NWPA established an office in the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop such a repository and required the program's civilian costs to be covered by a fee on nuclear-generated electricity. Amendments to NWPA in 1987 restricted DOE's repository site studies to Yucca Mountain in Nevada. DOE is studying numerous scientific issues in determining the suitability of Yucca Mountain for a nuclear waste repository, which must be licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Questions about the site include the likelihood of earthquakes, volcanoes, groundwater contamination, and human intrusion. Studies to answer those questions will involve years of underground testing. NWPA's goal for loading waste into the repository is 1998, but DOE had not expected to open the facility until 2010 at the earliest. But that schedule has been delayed indefinitely by deep funding reductions approved by Congress for FY1996. Conferees on the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill, which funds the waste program, instructed DOE to continue studying the Yucca Mountain site but to "defer preparation and filing of a license application for the repository with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission until a later date." Congress set aside $85 million of the program's FY1996 funding for an interim storage facility if authorizing legislation is subsequently approved. The nuclear industry is supporting legislation by Representative Upton (H.R. 1020) that would require DOE to open an interim waste storage facility near Yucca Mountain by 1998; the bill was approved by the House Commerce Committee August 2. Several bills also have been introduced in the Senate, but the outlook for action remains uncertain. The Clinton Administration opposes early siting of an interim waste facility.

  26. Nuclear waste: Nevada's use of nuclear waste grant funds

    GAO, WASHINGTON, DC (USA), 1996, 35 pp.

    The law prohibits Nevada from using its nuclear waste grant funds for lobbying, litigation and certain multistate activities. Yet GAO found that Nevada had used this money to advance, on a national stage, its opposition to a repository at Yucca Mountain. Until 1992, the Energy Department (DOE) reviewed and approved the state's applications for grant funds and required the state to give DOE periodic progress and financial reports. Since then, DOE's role in overseeing the state's grant has diminished. The agency makes direct grant payments to the state, and Nevada must certify that the money was spent in accordance with the law. DOE has recovered about $75,000 of the more than $1 million that GAO previously reported as improperly spent. DOE has decided that $670,000 worth of expenditures was either allowable or that it would not try to recover the funds. DOE has no records of whether it ever decided to recover the remaining $309,000 in expenditures that GAO questioned.

  27. Nuclear waste: Uncertainties about opening waste isolation pilot plant

    GAO, WASHINGTON, DC (USA), 1996, 64 pp.

    The Energy Department (DOE) hopes to begin disposal of nuclear waste in New Mexico in 1998 but first must obtain a certificate of compliance with regulations for disposal of radioactive waste from the Environmental Protection Agency. Because of unresolved issues involving this certificate, GAO believes that the prospects for opening the waste isolation pilot plant by the target date are uncertain. Looking farther into the future, DOE estimates that it will cost about $11 billion over several decades to develop and operate the facilities and equipment needed to prepare transuranic waste for shipment to and disposal in the plant. DOE also plans to spend nearly $8 billion on waste transportation and disposal operations at the plant over a 35-year period. How soon these facilities will be up and running will depend in great measure on DOE's ability to obtain funding in a period of budgetary constraints. Delays in developing these facilities could force DOE to extend the period for shipping the waste to the plant and store the waste in the repository beyond 35 years. Each additional year it takes to place waste at the plant could cost about $130 million.

  28. Sustainable development & electricity generation: Comparing impacts of waste disposal

    Seitz, R

    IAEA Bulletin [IAEA BULL.], vol. 38, no. 2, pp. 27-33, 1996

    This article provides an overview of the initial stages of an IAEA project to compare wastes and disposal methods from different electricity generation systems and to review approaches used to assess and compare the health and environmental impacts resulting from disposal of such waste. The role of nuclear power in a strategy for sustainable development of human society is emphasized. In this respect, the article highlights the small mass of waste generated as a result of nuclear power when compared to the total mass of waste from all energy chains and other common activities. Selected waste and respective disposal methods from all steps in the energy chains for electricity generation are discussed.

  29. Why environmentalists should promote nuclear energy

    Wolfe, Bertram

    Issues in Science and Technology [ISSUES SCI TECHNOL], vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 55-60, 1996

    The United States has been a leader in the development of nuclear power technology and the adoption of stringent safety standards. Not a single member of the public has been harmed by the operation of any of the world's nuclear plants that meet U.S. standards. The United States has also been successful in using its peaceful nuclear power leadership to limit the world-wide spread of nuclear weapons. But the future of nuclear energy in the United States is now in question. Since 1973, all new nuclear energy plant orders have subsequently been canceled. In 1993, U.S. utilities shut down three nuclear energy plants rather than invest in needed repairs. Of the 110 presently operating U.S. nuclear energy plants, 45 will reach the end of their planned 40-year life-time in the next two decades, and there are no plans for replacing them with new nuclear energy plants. This is the wrong time for the nation or the world to ignore nuclear power. Demand for energy will grow, and our options are limited. Ironically, environmentalists, who have opposed nuclear power since the 1970s, should have the strongest rationale for promoting nuclear energy. Like almost all large endeavors, nuclear power has its problems and its risks. But the problems of nuclear power do not look so bad when compared with the air pollution, global warming, and the supply limitations associated with fossil fuels. Besides, the major drawbacks of nuclear power-from cost to waste disposal-are due more to institutional impediments than to technological difficulties. Considering the growth in energy demand and the risks associated with other energy sources, the benefit-risk ratio for nuclear power is very attractive. Indeed, the welfare of our future generations and the environment may depend on maintaining the viability of nuclear power.

  30. Nuclear waste disposal - how to meet the concerns of the public

    Ryhanen, V

    Nuclear Energy [NUCL ENERGY], vol. 35, no. 5, pp. 349-351, 1996

    National laws and regulations and international recommendations on nuclear waste management has set the nuclear industry apart from other industries. Successful implementation of these laws require communication programs involving political decision-makers on the national and local levels, and the public and opinion-formers in general. The ultimate goal of these programs is to make the people understand that a final repository is needed for every country that uses nuclear energy so that the environment is protected from the hazardous effects of radioactive radiation.

  31. French experience in spent fuel and high level waste transportation

    Lenail, Bernard; Ricaud, Jean-Louis; Maechel, Jean-Francois

    URANIUM NUCL ENERGY PROC INT SYMP URANIUM INST, URANIUM INST, LONDON, (ENGL), 1996, pp. 186-189,

    As a result of accumulated experience, the French nuclear materials transportation industry has become reliable in terms of safety, cost-efficiency, and environmental impact. The industry follows the framework of general principles and safety rules recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Cogema handles the whole fuel cycle, from mining of uranium to plutonium recycling in mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, and carries out a large number of spent fuel and high level waste transportation. Cogema takes into account global issues such as environmental impact and the management of energy resources. Cogema's organization system, its procedures in engineering, shipping, carrying, and maintenance are discussed.

  32. Interim Management of Nuclear Materials, Savannah River Site, Aiken, Aiken and Barnwell Counties, South Carolina.

    EPA number: 950470F, 747 pages, October 13, 1995

    PURPOSE: The implementation of an interim management program for nuclear materials handled by the Savannah River nuclear power plant in South Carolina is proposed. Since the 1950's, the Department of Energy (DOE) has processed nuclear materials at the Savannah site to support defense, research, and medical programs. In 1992, the Secretary of Energy ordered the Savannah site to phase out its defense-related chemical separations. As a result of shutdowns and reduced demand for nuclear materials, the site has accumulated a large inventory of in-process solutions, reactor fuel assemblies, and reactor targets. Because of the form or condition in which these materials are maintained, they represent a potential threat to worker safety, the public, and the environment. Many of these materials are stored in a manner that is acceptable only for one or two years. The DOE estimates that it will take ten years to make and implement decisions on long-term disposition of these materials. This final EIS considers seven interim management alternatives and identifies a preferred alternative involving a specific combination of treatments for each type of material. Spent fuel, unirradiated fuel, depleted uranium solutions, and other stable materials would continue to be stored in their current form. Plutonium 242 solutions (3,500 gallons), plutonium 239 solutions (9,000 gallons), neptunium solutions and targets (1,600 gallons) would be converted to oxides and stored in that manner. Plutonium stored in vaults (2,800 packages) and irradiated Mark-31 targets (16,000 slugs) would be converted to a plutonium metal and packaged in a dry or inert atmosphere. Other irradiated targets (900 targets) would be processed and stored for vitrification in the waste processing facility. Enriched uranium solutions (60,000 gallons) and Mark-16 and Mark-22 fuels (1,900 assemblies) would be blended down to low enriched uranium. Americium and curium solutions (3,800 gallons) would be vitrified and stored in a glass composite. POSITIVE IMPACTS: The nuclear materials stored at the Savannah River site represent a long-term health and safety risk. The proposed interim plan would manage these materials in a safe and environmentally sound manner until a long-term solution were found. The preferred alternatives would minimize the need for constructing new facilities, rely on existing technologies, involve the use of existing personnel, and minimize future custodial care of the materials. NEGATIVE IMPACTS: Taking action to stabilize materials would entail some increased exposure and risk compared to the No Action Alternative during the ten-year period. LEGAL MANDATES: Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended (42 U.S.C. 2011 et seq.). PRIOR REFERENCES: For abstract of the draft EIS, see 95-0162D, Volume 19, Number 2.

  33. Waste Management Program for Managing Treatment, Storage, and Disposal of Radioactive and Hazardous Waste.

    EPA number: 950431D, Summary--74 pages, Volume I--916 pages, Volume II--739 pages, Volume III--555 pages, Volume IV--465 pages, September 15, 1995

    PURPOSE: The development of a comprehensive management plan for the treatment of five types of radioactive and hazardous wastes is proposed. This waste management programmatic EIS is a nationwide study examining the environmental impacts of managing wastes that result primarily from nuclear defense activities--the development, production and testing of nuclear weapons at a variety of sites located around the United States. The five waste types are low-level mixed waste (LLMW), low-level waste (LLW), transuranic waste (TRUW), high-level waste (HLW), and hazardous waste (HW). For each waste type, facilities are needed for treatment, storage, and disposal. Management objectives for these wastes include modifying existing waste management facilities or constructing new facilities at particular sites; operating modified or new waste management facilities at those sites; transporting waste, by truck and rail, among waste management facilities, as necessary; and sampling and analyzing waste constituents as necessary. A No Action Alternative, a decentralized action alternative, a regionalized action alternative, and a centralized action alternative are considered separately for each waste type, though for each they fall into four broad categories, in this draft EIS. The no action alternatives would involve using only currently existing or planned waste management facilities at Department of Energy (DOE) sites. Decentralized action alternatives would result in managing waste where it is or where it will be generated, treated, or disposed of in the future. These alternatives would call for facilities located at more sites than under the other action alternatives. Regionalized action alternatives would result in transporting wastes to various numbers of sites. In general, those sites that now have the greatest volumes of a given waste type were considered as regional sites for treatment, storage and disposal. More than one regionalized action alternative is under consideration for all waste types. Centralized action alternatives would result in transporting wastes to one or two sites for treatment, storage and disposal. The DOE has identified the No Action Alternative as the preferred alternative for non-wastewater HW, which continues the use of commercial facilities; treatment of hazardous wastewater would continue at DOE sites. The DOE prefers to continue to store HLW on-site at three major sites (the Hanford site in Washington, the Idaho National Environment Laboratory in Idaho, and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina), pending disposal in a geologic repository. This arrangement could be accommodated under the No Action Alternative and the decentralized and regionalized action alternatives. The DOE has not yet identified a preference for storage of HLW at West Valley Demonstration Project in New York. The regionalized alternatives are preferred for LLMW treatment because they would most closely approximate the DOE's proposed site treatment plans. Ongoing negotiations with regulatory authorities regarding the proposed plans could affect the DOE's preference for this alternative. Management project cost estimates range up to $12.6 billion for LLMW, $20 billion for LLW, $9 billion for TRUW, $3.59 billion for HLW, and $376 million for HW. POSITIVE IMPACTS: The enhancement of DOE's management of its current and anticipated volumes of wastes would ensure the safe and efficient management of these wastes and the compliance with all applicable federal and state laws, and also protect the public health and safety. NEGATIVE IMPACTS: The No Action Alternatives in some cases would not comply with existing law. Action alternatives could increase potential health risks to offsite populations surrounding sites where management facilities would be located. Eight of the 17 major sites could exceed one or more air pollutant standards as a result of maximum cumulative atmospheric emissions, and eight could require improvements to onsite water, wastewater, and electric power systems. Five of the latter sites could require improvements as a direct result of the possible location of tritium supply and recycling facilities. Nine sites could require potential mitigation measures in order to reduce offsite infrastructure and institution demands due to possible employment increases as a result of waste management activities. Radiation-related cancer fatalities resulting from the transportation of radioactive materials associated with waste management alternatives would be about 22, calculated over the 93-year period from 1943 to 2035. LEGAL MANDATES: Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (42 U.S.C. 961(h)).

  34. International law and nuclear energy: Overview of the legal framework

    El Baradei, M; Nwogugu, E; Rames, J

    IAEA Bulletin [IAEA BULL.], vol. 37, no. 3, pp. 16-25, 1995

    Over the past three decades, international cooperation in the field of nuclear energy has yielded a mix of legally binding rules and advisory standards and regulations. This article presents an overview of this global legal framework for nuclear energy's safe and peaceful development. It specifically addresses areas of nuclear safety, radiation protection, radioactive waste management, the transport of radioactive materials, emergency assistance and planning, civil liability for nuclear damage, physical protection of nuclear material, armed attacks against nuclear installations, and IAEA safeguards and verification.

  35. Ecology, ethics, and professional environmental practice: The Yucca Mountain, Nevada, project as a case study

    Malone, CR

    Environmental Professional [ENVIRON. PROF.], vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 271-284, 1995

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is proposing to develop a geologic repository for disposing of high-level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. In this commentary, the ecology program for the DOE's Yucca Mountain Project is discussed from the perspective of state-of-the-art ecosystem analysis, environmental ethics, and standards of professional practice. Specifically at issue is the need by the Yucca Mountain ecology program to adopt an ecosystem approach that encompasses the current strategy based on population biology and community ecology alone. The premise here is that an ecosystem approach is essential for assessing the long-term potential environmental impacts at Yucca Mountain in light of the thermal effects expected to be associated with heat from radioactive decay.