The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982's Relation to Yucca Mountain

Lauren Ketterer
May 15, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982

Fig. 1: Nevada's Yucca Mountain serves as the proposed site for a nuclear waste repository. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (NWPA) initiated a program and presented a detailed timeline for the construction of a central geologic repository in the United States. This program required that the Department of Energy (DOE) locate and develop a site by 1998. The chosen site would allow for the safe storage and disposal of high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel. [1] The NWPA was established in direct response to the widespread accumulation of waste byproducts that result from nuclear power generation.

Yucca Mountain Repository

In 1987, Congress passed an amendment designating Yucca Mountain, shown in Fig. 1, as the site for a geologic repository. The DOE submitted a construction license application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in June of 2008 to develop the facility. [2]

Yucca Mountain is located at the edge of Nevada National Security Site approximately 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas and surrounded by the Nellis Air Force Range on three sides. Yucca Mountains isolated location, dry climate, as well as other geological characteristics render the site suitable to store nuclear waste. [3] The successful construction of the Yucca Mountain repository would centralize storage, consolidating the waste buildup in facilities across the country, including California's San Onofre facility.


The controversial project has languished primarily due to widespread opposition by Nevadans and issues of health and safety. Nevadan Senator Harry Reid has repeatedly blocked funding for the plan, arguing that the transportation of such waste risks exposing innumerable Americans to radioactivity. President Barack Obama suspended the Yucca Mountain licensing in 2010, a decision that was regarded as a courtesy to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. [4] The federal government has yet to provide a clear solution for the long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel. The failure to develop a permanent solution not only allows for the deterioration of interim storage facilities, but also leaves Americans at great risk of radioactive exposure.

© Lauren Ketterer. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] T. DiChristopher, "The Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Dump, a Political Hot Potato, Is Back," CNBC, 16 Mar 17.

[2] "Nuclear Regulatory Legislation, 112th Congress, 2nd Session," U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NUREG-0980, Vol. 1, No. 10, September 2013, p. 419.

[3] M. L. Wald, "Energy Department Recommends Yucca Mountain for Nuclear Burial," New York Times, 15 Feb 02.

[4] "Harry Reid v. Yucca Mountain," Chicago Tribune, 31 Oct 14.