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Standards & Regulations in the United States: What Went Wrong?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 March 2012

Rodney C. Ewing*
Affiliation:
Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 48109-1005, U.S.A.
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Abstract

In this paper, I discuss the basis for the following recommendations for the development of standards and regulations for the long-term disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level nuclear waste in a geologic repository:

  • The standard and supporting regulations for the licensing of a geologic repository should be generic - applicable to all potential sites. These standards and regulations should be finalized prior to the site-selection process.

  • Site-selection should be based on a set of common-sense criteria [1]. If during site characterization process it is discovered that the site does not meet the technical criteria, the site should be abandoned. These criteria should not only consider the characteristics of the site, but should also include careful consideration of the degree to which a site can be analyzed. Unnecessary complexity may jeopardize the confidence in the analysis of a suitable site.

  • The standard must acknowledge and adapt its structure and standard-of-proof to the fact that there are two time-scales of interest: the human time-scale that extends to some thousands of years and the geologic time-scale that extends to many hundreds of thousands of years. Reasonable and robust containment at both time scales is possible, but the type of analysis and standard-of-proof will be different for each.

  • Because there are two time-scales and because the types of “proof” for each are very different, the total system analysis of performance, reduced to a single numerical estimate of risk at some very distant time, should be abandoned. The standard should not require scientists and engineers to complete an analysis that is at its best opaque and at its worst not believable.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Materials Research Society 2012

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References

REFERENCES

1. National Research Council (1978) Geological Criteria for Repositories for High-Level Radioactive Wastes. National Academy Press, 19 pages.Google Scholar
2. Carter, Luther J. (1986) Nuclear Imperatives and Public Trust – Dealing with Radioactive Waste. Resources for the Future, Inc., 473 pages.Google Scholar
3. Samuel Walker, J. (2009) The Road to Yucca Mountain – The Development of Radioactive Waste Policy in the United States, University of California Press, Berkeley, 228 pages.Google Scholar
4. Government Accounting Office (2000) Radiation Standards – Scientific Basis Inconclusive, and EPA and NRC Disagreement Continues, GAO/RCED-00–152, 65 pages.Google Scholar
5. National Research Council (1995) Technical Bases for Yucca Mountain Standards, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. 205 pages.Google Scholar
6. Ewing, R.C., Tierney, M.S., Konikow, L.F. and Rechard, R.P. (1999) Performance assessments of nuclear waste repositories: A dialogue on their value and limitations. Risk Analysis, 19, 933958.10.1111/j.1539-6924.1999.tb00452.xCrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
7. Ewing, R.C. (2006) Performance Assessments: Are They Necessary or Sufficient? In: Uncertainty Underground – Yucca Mountain and the Nation’s High-Level Nuclear Waste, 7183.Google Scholar
8. Bredehoeft, J.D., England, A.W., Steward, D.B., Trask, N.J. and Winograd, I.J. (978) eologic Disposal of High-Level Radioactive Wastes – Earth-Science Perspectives. U.S.G.S. Survey Circular 779, 15 pages.Google Scholar
9. Applegate, David (2006) The Mountain Matters. In: Uncertainty Underground – Yucca Mountain and the Nation’s High-Level Nuclear Waste, 105130.Google Scholar
10. Crowe, B.M., Valentine, G.A., Perry, F.V. and Black, P.K. (2006) The Mountain Matters. In: Uncertainty Underground – Yucca Mountain and the Nation’s High-Level Nuclear Waste, 131148.Google Scholar
11. Oreskes, Naomi (2004) Science and public policy: what’s proof got to do with it? Environmental Science & Policy, 7, 369383.10.1016/j.envsci.2004.06.002CrossRefGoogle Scholar
12. Nuclear Energy Agency (2009) Considering Timescales in the Post-closure Safety of Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste, No. 6424, 159 pages.Google Scholar

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