Regulators predict ‘small’ groundwater impacts from Yucca nuclear site

The Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site could have a “small” environmental impact on groundwater over a million-year timeframe, nuclear regulators predicted.

In a 300-page analysis of the proposed nuclear waste repository, staff from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said the Department of Energy (DOE) did not properly account for radioactive contamination of groundwater and the impact if that groundwater reaches the surface.

The DOE’s study was completed in 2008 as part of the congressionally mandated and since stalled preparation for Yucca.


The Obama administration cut off most preparation for Yucca in 2010 in response to opposition in Nevada and elsewhere.

But congressional Republicans hope to provide funding for Yucca at some point, and the NRC is still obligated to conduct its analysis of the application that President George W. Bush’s administration submitted.

“This supplement evaluates the potential radiological and nonradiological impacts — over a one million year period — on the aquifer environment, soils, ecology, and public health, as well as the potential for disproportionate impacts on minority or low-income populations,” the agency wrote in its report.

“The NRC staff finds that each of the potential direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on the resources evaluated in this supplement would be small.”

The report released late Thursday follows the 2015 completion of a years-long study by the NRC staff into potential safety impacts from Yucca.

Overall, the staff found that Yucca would remain safe during the million-year time frame it has to study.