Nuclear Waste:

Quarterly Report as of December 31, 1989

RCED-90-130: Published: Apr 30, 1990. Publicly Released: Apr 30, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided its quarterly status report on the Department of Energy's (DOE) implementation of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, focusing on the: (1) Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) ability to implement an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) containment standard for repository licensing; and (2) impact of that requirement on DOE determination of a proposed repository site's suitability.

GAO found that: (1) the EPA repository containment standard limited the cumulative release of radioactive material into the environment over a 10,000-year period; (2) NRC expressed concern regarding potential DOE difficulty in satisfactorily demonstrating such compliance, since there were limitations and uncertainties in the methods and data for calculating acceptable levels of risk; (3) NRC collaboratively worked with EPA to develop additional guidance on how DOE could demonstrate compliance with the containment standard and avoid lengthy licensing delays; (4) NRC guidance regarding the standard emphasized maintaining the quality of the scientific work that supported the numerical results of compliance analyses; and (5) both NRC and EPA believed that DOE attempts to characterize the site of its proposed repository would provide valuable insight into potential problems of demonstrating compliance with the containment standard.

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