Yucca Mountain

Yucca Mountain, the Nevada-based, scientifically flawed and politically unjust proposed high-level radioactive waste repository has now been canceled. However, pro-nuclear forces in Congress have not abandoned Yucca and funding is still allocated to the project.



How/where/when to submit comments on NRC's Supplemental EIS on proposed Yucca dump

NRC published notification of its Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) in the Federal Register on Aug. 21. The DSEIS is posted on NRC's website.

Public comments are due by Oct. 20.

Per the Fed Reg Notice, comments can be submitted:

via the Federal Rulemaking Web site: Go to and search for Docket ID NRC-2015-0051;

or, by mailing comments to Cindy Bladey, Office of Administration, Mail Stop: OWFN-12-H08, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001.

Public comments can also be submitted orally at the following-in person NRC meetings:

  • September 3, 2015: NRC Headquarters, One White Flint North, First Floor Commission Hearing Room, 11555 Rockville Pike, Maryland 20852. This meeting will start at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time and continue until 5:00 p.m. (Call-in option available: Conference Call Bridge Number: (888) 790-2936; Passcode: 9708500. This meeting will also be Web-streamed via the NRC's public Web site. On the meeting date, interested persons should go to the NRC's Live Meeting Webcast page to participate:
  • September 15, 2015: Embassy Suites Convention Center, 3600 Paradise Rd., Las Vegas, Nevada 89169. This meeting will start at 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time and continue until 9:00 p.m.
  • September 17, 2015: Amargosa Community Center, 821 E. Amargosa Farm Road, Amargosa Valley, Nevada 89020. This meeting will start at 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time and continue until 9:00 p.m.
  • October 15, 2015: Public meeting via conference call, from 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time until 4:00 p.m. (As of August 25, 2015, NRC still had not provided a Conference Call Bridge Number nor a Passcode for this call-in only meeting).

NRC has stated: "Persons interested in attending or presenting oral comments at any of the public meetings are encouraged to pre-register. Persons may pre-register to attend or present oral comments by calling 301-415-6789 or by emailing no later than 3 days prior to the meeting. To provide oral comments, members of the public may also register in person at each meeting."

To obtain further information about this public comment period, the Fed Reg Notice lists as NRC point of contact: Christine Pineda, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001; telephone: 301-415-6789; email: (However, to be clear, Ms. Pineda's contact info., such as her email address, is not listed as a way to submit comments.)

Regarding WHAT comments to make, Beyond Nuclear will publish sample talking points ASAP, after having the chance to analyze the draft SEIS. You can use those to write your own. But here is a starter, below. Always specifiy the report number NUREG–2184, as well as the Docket ID NRC-2015-0051, in the subject line of your comments, so they can be routed to the correct docket.



NRC's DSEIS has absurdly concluded that radioactive releases from the proposed Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste dump would be SMALL -- that is, essentially minimal, and harmless -- over the course of a million years into the future.

Actually, if irradiated nuclear fuel is ever buried at Yucca, it would leak massively, into the groundwater, creating a "nuclear sacrifice zone" over a broad region downstream.

This would include hazardous, even deadly, radioactive contamination of the groundwater, currently used for drinking and irrigation water in Nevada's agricultural Amargosa Valley; the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Death Valley National Park, as well as the Timbisha Shoshone Indian community inhabiting Death Valley, would also be in harm's way.

The potential for disproportionate impacts on minority or low-income populations is especially high, considering the current lifestyle of the Timbisha Shoshone Indian community, as well as the traditional lifestyle of the Western Shoshone Indian Nation.

The potential for cumulative impacts associated with other past, present, or reasonably foreseeable future actions is very high. After all, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Department of Energy, and military conducted atmospheric nuclear weapons tests in the vicinity of Yucca Mountain from 1951 to 1963. They continued to conduct underground full-scale nuclear weapons tests at the Nevada Test Site (NTS) from 1963 to 1992, many of which leaked radioactivity to the atmosphere and environment, as well as contaminated regional groundwater. Even after 1992, nuclear weapons testing has continued at the NTS, in the form of sub-critical experiments involing plutonium.

Another cumulative impact involves the large-scale transport to, and dumping of so-called "low" level radioactive wastes at, the NTS.

We join with the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, several environmental groups, and others in urging NRC to extend the public comment deadline by at least an additional 60 days. We also urge that additional in-person public meetings be scheduled in California (where Yucca's radioactively contaminated groundwater would ultimately surface in springs), as well as elsewhere across the country (given that Yucca's opening would launch the unprecedented, large-scale shipment of risky high-level radioactive waste by truck, train, and barge, through most states. And we urge that all in-person public meetings also include the call-in option, already being provided at other locations, on other dates.

And lastly, WHY to comment? A thousand environmental groups, representing every state in the Union, have joined with the Western Shoshone Indian Nation, as well as the State of Nevada and its U.S. congressional delegation, ever since the "Screw Nevada bill" of 1987, to stop the dangerous Yucca Mountain dump. Now is no time to let up the resistance.


"Another defective document has come out" promoting radioactive waste dump at Yucca Mountain, NV

Political cartoon by Jim Day of the Las Vegas Review Journal in 2010, the year the Obama administration effectively revoked the "Screw Nevada" bill of 1987, which -- through raw politics, not science -- singled out Yucca Mountain as the only site in the country to be further studied for high-level radioactive waste disposal (be sure to count the toes!)As reported by Steve Tetrault in the Las Vegas Review Journal, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has published NUREG-2184, 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.

As reported in the article:

"Based on conservative assumptions…the NRC staff expects the estimated radiation dose would contribute only a negligible increase in the risk of cancer or severe hereditary effects in the potentially exposed population" living southwest of Yucca Mountain and into Death Valley, the report said.

The study concluded the maximum dose of potential contamination in Amargosa Valley would be 1.3 millirems, which it said was "a small fraction" of normal background radiation of 300 millirems a year, and "much less" than NRC standards.

Nevada officials, maintaining their decades-long opposition to the proposed dump, disagreed: 

"It's an exciting day. Another defective document has come out," said Robert Halstead, director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects. Halstead argued the study is flawed in part because it is based on information and assumptions about the site he said were outdated.

"This report is simply a waste of energy and resources," said Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev.

U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who will retire in Jan. 2017, has stuck by his previous diagnosis on the Yucca dump, that “It’s closed, it’s gone,” NBC News 3 Las Vegas reports.

But when Reid "once again pronounced the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository project dead," in a sit down with the conservative Las Vegas Review Journal editorial board, they couldn't help but editorialize back, "(Yeah, walking dead.)" (see image, above left)

NRC plans to hold an inexplicably short public comment period on the report, to end on October 20th. After all, the Obama administration has cancelled the project, and NRC is all but out of funding to proceed with licensing, so why is the public comment period being rushed?

As reported by Environmental Protection, the public comment period begins when NRC publishes the hearing schedule in the Federal Register on Aug. 21st. EP also reports a call-in public comment opportunity will be provided in early October.

NRC -- on very short notice! -- has announced a public conference call to learn more: "We also want to remind you about our public conference call on Wed., August 26, 2015, from 2-3pm Eastern.  During that call, we will describe how to submit comments and we’ll take questions on this topic.  The number to dial for this call is (888) 790-2936 and the passcode is 9708500."

Only three public hearings for comment will be held: Thurs., Sept. 3rd from 3-5pm at NRC HQ in Rockville, MD (including an option for calling in: The number to dial for this call is again (888) 790-2936 and the passcode is 9708500  ); Tues., Sept. 15th at Embassy Suites in Las Vegas, NV from 6-9pm (6-7 open house, 7-9 formal comment meeting); and Thurs., Sept. 17th, from 6-9pm (6-7 open house, 7-9 formal comment meeting), at the Amargosa Valley Community Center in Nye County, NV. (See August 23rd update below for exact addresses and other details for the Nevada hearings.)

[And, as also reported in the Aug. 23rd update below: "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." (As of August 25, 2015, NRC still had not provided a Conference Call Bridge Number nor a Passcode for this call-in only meeting).]

The Associated Press has also reported on this story. 

But Nevada is not alone in its resistance to the proposed dumpsite. Over the decades, more than a thousand national, state, and local environmental groups have actively opposed the proposal (750 are documented here).

Several groups, including Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), and Public Citizen, sued the U.S. EPA in 2002, and, with NRDC Senior Attorney Geoff Fettus arguing the environmental coalition's case, won the lawsuit in 2004. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the second highest court in the land, ordered EPA to rewrite its Yucca dump regulations to account for the period of peak radioactivity releases, rather than cut off regulations at an arbitrarily short time period post waste burial. EPA came back with revised regulations in 2008, recognizing a million years of hazard associated with high-level radioactive waste.

Unfortunately, however, EPA's final Yucca regulations have introduced yet another "double standard standard," as Dr. Arjun Makhijani of Institute for Energy and Environmental Research has coined them. A much more strict radiation dose limit for "Reasonably Maximally Exposed Individuals," or "dose receptors" (that is, people living downstream from the leaking dump), will apply for the first 10,000 years post waste burial. But from 10,000 years to one million years in the future, a much weaker standard will apply, even though leakage will grow worse over time. Countless public comments have protested this double standard, which would put future generations at unacceptable, and unjust (from an inter-generational equity perspective), risk.

Photo by Gabriela Bulisova of a Western Shoshone Indian Nation sweat lodge at Yucca Mountain, NV, which is visible in the background.In addition, the Western Shoshone Indian Nation has long resisted the proposed Yucca Mountain dump. Yucca Mountain is sacred to the Western Shoshone (see photo), and other Indian Nations, and is located on land belonging to the Western Shoshone Indian Nation, as recognized by the U.S. government in the 1863 "Peace and Friendship" Treaty of Ruby Valley.

Ian Zabarte, a Board Member at the Native Community Action Council, and Foreign Minister of the Western Shoshoe Indian Nation, has long watchdogged the Yucca Mountain dump proposal. 

Yucca's groundwater, which would be massively contaminated with hazardous radioactivity if irradiated nuclear fuel is ever buried there, surfaces at springs in Death Valley, CA. The Timbisha Shoshone Indian Band lives there, and depends on such water sources for its traditional lifestyle. 

Farmers in Amargosa Valley, NV, just downstream from Yucca Mountain, also draw groundwater from wells for drinking water and irrigation water. The Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge would also be put in harm's way, from radioactivity leaks from a dump at Yucca.

NRC wrote DOE about the development, and cc'd a large number of parties to the long suspended Yucca Mountain dump licensing proceeding, and other interested parties, including Beyond Nuclear.


"Industry push on Yucca Mountain troubles allies"

Photo by Las Vegas Review Journal, of recent congressional visit to Yucca Mountain, NV "Exploratory Studies Facility" tunnel. NEI and certain Members of Congress can't seem to give up on the dead end that is the long proposed, now cancelled, Yucca dump.As reported by Steve Tetrault in the Las Vegas Review Journal, the Nuclear Energy Institute's (NEI) renewed push for a high-level radioactive waste dump at Yucca Mountain, NV has even its congressional supporters "taken aback." U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, respectively, have been pushing centralized interim storage for commercial irradiated nuclear fuel, as has U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The three nuclear power industry friendly U.S. Senators recognize the power of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who has devoted his long career in the Senate to blocking the Yucca dump, against all odds. In addition, President Obama quickly moved to defund the Yucca project, and even to withdraw the U.S. Department of Energy's application to build and operate the repository, once he entered the Oval Office.

However, NEI -- Las Vegas-style -- seems to be gambling that once Reid and Obama are gone from the political scene, it'll be able to have its way on Yucca. Reid has announced his retirement, meaning both he and President Obama will leave office at the same time, in January 2017.

Way back in 1987, the nuclear power industry and its friends in government forced the passage of the "Screw Nevada bill," against the will of the State of Nevada and its congressional delegation. However, they never anticipated the resolve of rookie U.S. Senator Harry Reid, a former boxer, to outlast their dastardly plan.


DTE doesn't oppose holding Fermi 3 Nuclear Waste Confidence matters in abeyance, pending resolution of NY v. NRC II appeal

On July 31st, Detroit Edison filed a response to Beyond Nuclear et al.'s motion to hold the proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor proceeding in abeyance. The nuclear utility agreed with Beyond Nuclear that the Nuclear Waste Confidence aspects of the proceeding should be held in abeyance, pending resolution of New York v. NRC II. However, DTE emphasized its desire that the other matters on appeal -- namely, quality assurance (or lack thereof), and transmission corridor "pre-construction" National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)-compliance (or lack thereof) -- be resolved ASAP.

Detroit Edison proposes building a General Electric-Hitachi ESBWR (so-called "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor") at its Fermi nuclear power plant site in Monroe County, MI, on the Lake Erie shoreline.

Permanent disposal of high-level radioactive waste, at a geologic repository, is -- or should be -- an aspect of NRC's Nuclear Waste Confidence policy, renamed Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel in 2014. In its June 2012 ruling in New York v. NRC (I), the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ordered NRC to analyze the impacts of a repository never being opened.

Essentially, NRC has not done so. NRC has merely expressed continued confidence that irradiated nuclear fuel can, and will, be stored safely, securely, and soundly, indefinitely into the future. This "assumed safety" applies not only at on-site storage at reactor sites, but also away from reactors, at centrailzed interim storage sites.

Beyond Nuclear's appeal against Nuclear Waste Confidence at Fermi 3 challenges this "assumption of safety." NEPA requires a "hard look," actual concerted analysis, at environmental impacts of a proposed action, such as NRC approving new reactor licenses, as at Fermi 3, which will inevitably lead to the generation, and storage, of high-level radioactive waste. And the Atomic Energy Act requires NRC establish "reasonable assurance of adequate protection" of public health and safety, which NRC has not done in its Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel GEIS (Generic Environmental Impact Statement) and Rule.

The risk of a repository never opening would exacerbate such on-site and away from reactor (centralized or consolidated interim storage) risks. However, despite the court order, NRC has not analyzed this risk of a repository never opening, nor the exacerbation of storage risks this would cause at, and away from, reactors.

Yucca Mountain, Nevada has -- in the words of Michael Keegan of the Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes -- long served as the "illusion of a solution" to the radioactive waste problem. Yucca has been targeted as the country's repository site since the 1987 "Screw Nevada" bill was passed by Congress, and signed by President Reagan, all over Nevada's objections. However, the Yucca dump was cancelled by President Obama shortly after he took office. The Obama Department of Energy moved to withdraw its Yucca license application, and the administration zeroed out its budget requests for the project, defunding it.


Art and wilderness "final nail in the coffin" of beleaguered Yucca dump and Mobile Chernobyl rail route

This undated photo provided by Triple Aught Foundation shows part of an artwork by Michael Heizer called “City” near Garden Valley, Nev. Mammoth bones, the prehistoric rock carvings and more than a million acres of wilderness will be protected as part of three new national monuments that President Barack Obama is creating in California, Nevada and Texas and announced Friday, July 10, 2015. Tom Vinetz/Triple Aught Foundation / APAs reported by Cy Ryan in a Las Vegas Sun article entitled "Why new national monument could derails plans for nuke dump at Yucca," President Obama's declaration of a Basin and Range National Monument in the rural heart of Nevada could be the final nail in the coffin of the proposed high-level radioactive waste dump at Yucca Mountain.

So says Robert Halstead, the director of the State of Nevada's Agency for Nuclear Projects, who has led opposition to the U.S. Department of Energy's 300-mile-long, $3 billion rail line proposal that would be needed to transport irradiated nuclear fuel to the controversial dump-site.

The rail route would now have to pass through a national monument, threatening its wilderness and wildlife, and disrupting perhaps the largest landscape art project in North America. "City," created by Michael Heizer over the past half-century, is as large in size as the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

As reported by Juliet Eilperin in the Washington Post, the Basin and Range National Monument is the fulfillment of a long-held dream by U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid. Reid, who hails from Searchlight, NV, loves Nevada's desert. He has also devoted his long and successful political career in the U.S. Senate to blocking the Yucca dump, as one of his highest priorities.

This is not the first wilderness area to block a Mobile Chernobyl route and radioactive waste dump. In 2006, Sen. Reid worked with Republican colleagues from Nevada and Utah to create the Cedar Mountains federal wilderness area in Skull Valley, Utah. The designation effectively blocked the environmentally racist Private Fuel Storage, LLC high-level radioactive waste de facto permanent parking lot dump, targeted by a consortium of nuclear power utilities at the tiny Skull Valley Goshutes Indian Reservation west of Salt Lake City. The federal wilderness area was the first designated in Utah in a generation, brought about by the unlikely cooperation of traditional Native Americans, wilderness groups, and Utah's Mormon Republican political establishment.