What authority does EPA have to set standards that protect public health and the environment at Yucca Mountain?
The Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to set site-specific standards for Yucca Mountain comes from the Energy Policy Act of 1992. However, two other laws have important roles leading up to that authority: the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, and the WIPP Land Withdrawal Act.
The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (42 U.S.C. 10101) created the framework within which spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste is disposed; the law requires the Department of Energy to site, construct, and operate geologic repositories for both types of waste. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission must license the construction and operation of the facility, and implement the environmental protection standards set by the EPA.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Land Withdrawal Act (P.L. 102-597), which was enacted in 1992, exempted the Yucca Mountain facility from the 40 CFR part 191 generic disposal standards.
Finally, the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (42 U.S.C. 13201) specifically provided EPA the authority and direction to set site-specific standards for Yucca Mountain. The act stated that the EPA must “promulgate, by rule, public health and safety standards for the protection of the public from releases from radioactive materials stored or disposed of in the repository at the Yucca Mountain site.”