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Delaying DOE's radwaste program.

Delaying DOE's radwaste program

Where to put high-level radioactive waste now accumulatingat nuclear power plants and other nonmilitary nuclear facilities has been a longstanding problem. The latest announcement from the Department of Energy (DOE) puts the answer even farther away. DOE has now concluded that it needs an extra five years before it can begin operating a permanent repository for high-level nuclear waste. That extension would push such a facility's opening date from Jan. 31, 1998, into the year 2003, throwing into disarray the schedule mandated by Congress in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (SN: 1/1/83, p.6).

The department cited delays in the consultation processleading to selection of three candidate sites for the first repository as one of the main reasons for its request for an extension (SN: 1/5/85, p.6). According to DOE's draft amendment to its "mission plan' for the civilian radioactive-waste management program, "additional time is needed . . . to collect needed technical information and to consult with states and affected Indian tribes as well as provide for public participation in the process.'

At the same time, DOE's revised plan reaffirms the department'sintention to postpone site-specific work on a second repository until the mid-1990s or later (SN: 6/7/86, p.359). Furthermore, DOE plans to submit to Congress a proposal for establishing a facility designed for temporary storage of highlevel radioactive waste. That action will occur as soon as legal issues are resolved (SN: 5/4/85, p.277). DOE's preferred site for a "monitored retrievable storage' facility is a cleared area at the Clinch River near Oak Ridge, Tenn., but the state, fearing that the facility may become permanent if it is built, has sued the federal government.

After a 60-day comment period, DOE may, where necessary,revise its draft amendment in response to comments received. Then the department intends to submit the final proposal to Congress. How Congress will react to DOE's change in plans isn't clear yet.
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Title Annotation:Department of Energy
Publication:Science News
Date:Feb 14, 1987
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