High-Level Radioactive Waste and Spent Nuclear Fuel Program Overview

With the Presidential designation and Congressional approval in 2002 of Yucca Mountain as the site for a permanent geologic repository for high-level radioactive waste Land Picture(HLW) and spent nuclear fuel (SNF), the transportation and disposition of these wastes have received significant attention in the states.  Constant legal and regulatory hurdles have stalled development of the repository, requiring on-site storage of SNF at commercial facilities around the country in spent fuel pools (104 operating reactors in 31 states) or in independent spent fuel storage installations (42 in 28 states - most use dry cask storage). 

Another nuclear waste issue of interest to states is the potential siting of Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) facilities.  GNEP seeks to promote world-wide use of nuclear energy and the recycling of nuclear waste in a safe manner that decreases its volume and reduces the threat of byproduct proliferation.  The technology required to accomplish these goals will be demonstrated at three facilities: a nuclear fuel recycling center, an advanced reactor to burn the recycled fuel, and a research facility to develop an improved fuel cycle.  Eleven locations around the country have already been selected by the Department of Energy (DOE) to receive grant funding to conduct siting analyses for possible recycling facilities. 

With low-level radioactive waste (LLW), federal law encourages states to enter into compacts with neighboring or regional states to create a single disposal facility for that compact.  Currently, there are only three facilities in operation for such purpose: Barnwell in South Carolina, Richland in Washington State, and a private-sector EnergySolutions site in Utah.  Barnwell is the only facility to accept all concentrations of LLW from any state without a compact-available landfill (38 states), but is slated to discontinue its services in June of 2008.  At that point Barnwell will only accept waste from its Atlantic Compact states - South Carolina, Connecticut, and New Jersey.      

Land Picture 2In preparation for the expanded transportation and interim storage of nuclear waste related to Yucca Mountain, GNEP, LLW disposal uncertainty, and many additional factors, state legislatures are well served to stay informed of safety and oversight responsibilities.

NCSL's Radioactive Waste project offers a number of services to state legislators, including this website with current news, technical meeting notes, and legislation databases; legal and policy analysis; testimony before state legislative bodies; and opportunities for legislators to gather to receive federal updates and interact with fellow interested states.  NCSL's objective is to improve the quality and effectiveness of state legislatures and tribal governments by promoting policy innovation, communication among our constituents, and a cohesive voice in the federal system.

 High Level Nuclear Waste Working Group