Critics Attack Agency Yucca Mountain Radiation Exposure Limits
WASHINGTON U.S. scientists and environmentalists said Monday that radiation limits proposed for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump beneath a volcanic ridge 90 miles (144 kilometers) northwest of Las Vegas aren't strict enough to protect the public.
The dump's opening date has been repeatedly delayed and is now expected in 2012.
"This rule is a transparent attempt to accommodate the industry," Arjun Makhijani, a nuclear physicist who has been critical of the Yucca project, told reporters on a conference call a day ahead of an Environmental Protection Agency hearing on draft regulations.
"In the proposed EPA rule, every norm of radiation protection that has been established for the general public since the late 1950s ... is to be thrown overboard," Makhijani said.
The EPA in August proposed limiting exposure near the planned dump to 15 millirems a year for 10,000 years into the future, then increasing the allowable level to 350 millirems a year for up to 1 million years.
That higher level is more than three times what is allowed from nuclear facilities today by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A standard chest X-ray is about 10 millirems.
The 350 millirem level is "an extremely unacceptable risk," said Dr. Robert M. Gould, chairman of Physicians for Social Responsibility's security committee. He said that annual exposure to that level of radiation over a lifetime would carry a one in 36 chance for someone to develop cancer.
EPA spokesman John Millett emphasized that the rule is a draft and a final standard won't be issued until after the public comment period ends Nov. 21. Tuesday's meeting at EPA headquarters is the agency's fifth and final public hearing on the rule; the four earlier hearings were in Nevada.
Source: Associated Press