Why the GTCC EIS is Needed
The Greater-Than-Class C Low-Level Radioactive Waste Environmental Impact Statement (GTCC EIS) is being prepared pursuant to the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985, the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.
Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985 (LLRWPAA)
Section 3(b)(1)(D) of the LLRWPAA assigned the Federal Government (DOE) responsibility for the disposal of GTCC LLRW that results from NRC and Agreement State licensed activities. DOE proposes to construct and operate a new facility or facilities or use an existing facility or facilities for the disposal of such GTCC LLRW. The Secretary of Energy has determined that development of disposal capability for GTCC LLRW is a major Federal action that may have a significant impact upon the environment within the meaning of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). DOE intends to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for this project to address the environmental impacts from the proposed action and the range of reasonable alternatives.
Section 3(b)(1)(D) of the LLRWPAA reads as follows:
The Federal Government shall be responsible for the disposal of any other low-level radioactive waste with concentrations of radionuclides that exceed the limit established by the Commission for Class C Waste, as defined by Section 61.55 of Title 10, Code of Federal Regulations, as in effect on January 26, 1983.
Section 3(b)(2) of the LLRWPAA reads as follows:
All radioactive waste designated a Federal responsibility pursuant to subparagraph (b)(1)(D) that results from activities licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, shall be disposed of in a facility licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the Commission determines is adequate to protect human health and safety.
Section 631 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005
Section 631 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-58) enacted August 8, 2005, includes several requirements related to DOE's preparation of an EIS and record of decision for the disposal of GTCC LLRW.
Section 631 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 reads as follows:
SAFE DISPOSAL OF GREATER-THAN-CLASS C RADIOACTIVE WASTE.
(a) RESPONSIBILITY FOR ACTIVITIES TO PROVIDE STORAGE FACILITY. The Secretary shall provide to Congress official notification of the final designation of an entity within the Department to have the responsibility of completing activities needed to provide a facility for safely disposing of all Greater-Than-Class C Low-Level Radioactive Waste.
(b) REPORTS AND PLANS.
(1) REPORT ON PERMANENT DISPOSAL FACILITY.
(A) PLAN REGARDING COST AND SCHEDULE FOR COMPLETION OF EIS AND ROD. Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary, in consultation with Congress, shall submit to Congress a report containing an estimate of the cost and a proposed schedule to complete an environmental impact statement and record of decision for a permanent disposal facility for Greater-Than-Class C Radioactive Waste.
(B) ANALYSIS OF ALTERNATIVES. Before the Secretary makes a final decision on the disposal alternative or alternatives to be implemented, the Secretary shall
(i) submit to Congress a report that describes all alternatives under consideration, including all information required in the comprehensive report making recommendations for ensuring the safe disposal of all Greater-Than-Class C Low-Level Radioactive Waste that was submitted by the Secretary to Congress in February 1987; and
(ii) await action by Congress.
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA)
Federal laws and regulations require the federal government to evaluate the impacts of its actions on the environment and to consider alternative courses of action. The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) specifies when an environmental impact statement (EIS) must be prepared. NEPA requires that an EIS be prepared for major federal actions with the potential for significant impact on the quality of the human environment.
Safe and Secure Disposal Would Contribute to National Security
Safe and secure disposal of sealed sources, a subset of which are one type of GTCC waste, would address national security concerns that arise when certain sealed sources are no longer needed for their intended use and become "disused." Sealed sources are typically small, highly-radioactive materials encapsulated in closed metallic containers, and represent about a quarter of the total volume of GTCC wastes. Due to their concentrated activity and portability, radioactive sealed sources could be used in radiological dispersal devices (RDD) commonly referred to as dirty bombs. An attack using an RDD could result in extensive economic loss, significant social disruption, and potentially serious public health problems. For additional information on national security concerns go to http://www.nrc.gov/security/byproduct/task-force.html
Safe and Secure Disposal Would Support the Future of Nuclear Medicine
The availability of a GTCC disposal path is important to the future of nuclear medicine, especially for the planned domestic production of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), which is used in as many of 50,000 diagnostic medical procedures every day in the U.S.
Today, the U.S. depends on aging foreign nuclear reactors to produce Mo-99, but shortages in recent years have highlighted the need to produce this material domestically. Commercial entities in the U.S. are developing the capability to produce Mo-99, but will require a safe and secure method to dispose of the GTCC waste resulting from the production of Mo-99. Development of a disposal capability would support these important public health activities.