Regional Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Sites

RCED-83-48: Published: Apr 11, 1983. Publicly Released: Apr 14, 1983.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed certain aspects of the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act to: (1) evaluate the problems which states face in forming interstate or regional compacts; (2) assess the ability of individual states or regional compacts to establish low-level waste disposal sites by 1986; and (3) recommend alternative contingency plans for states that are not unable to meet the time schedule.

All of the nation's commercial low-level wastes are presently disposed of in three burial sites which are not adequate to handle the expanding volumes of low-level waste. In addition, the states where these sites are located have made it clear that they will no longer bear the entire burden of low-level waste disposal, and they are actively forming regional interstate compacts and attempting to create new disposal sites. Although the compact agreements have been completed or are nearing completion, none of them have received congressional approval and only two regions will have operating disposal sites by the target date established by the act. Therefore, possible alternatives are being sought by the remaining states for temporarily managing low-level wastes. These alternatives include: an extension of the exclusion date in the act; temporary disposal of commercial low-level wastes at Department of Energy low-level waste burial sites, which are currently used to dispose of wastes generated by defense programs; convincing the compact regions with operable sites to temporarily accept out-of-region waste; or the temporary storage of wastes in warehouse-type facilities until new disposal sites are available. In the view of GAO, the latter two alternatives are best. GAO recommended that federal agencies should continue to assist the states in forming regional groupings and help resolve technical problems. In addition, a high priority should be assigned to the completion of radiological standards for low-level waste disposal facilities.

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