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An assessment of issues related to determination of time periods required for isolation of high level waste

Description: A commonly held perception is that disposal of spent nuclear fuel or high-level waste presents a risk of unprecedented duration. The EPA requires that projected releases of radioactivity be limited for 10,000 years after disposal with the intent that risks from the disposal repository be no greater than those from the uranium ore deposit from which the nuclear fuel was originally extracted. This study reviews issues involved in assessing compliance with the requirement. The determination of compliance is assumption dependent primarily due to uncertainties in dosimetric data, and relative availability of the radioactivity for environmental transport and eventual assimilation by humans. A conclusion of this study is that, in time, a spent fuel disposal repository such as the projected Yucca Mountain Project Facility will become less hazardous than the original ore deposit. Only the time it takes to do so is in question. Depending upon the assumptions selected, this time period could range from a few centuries to hundreds of thousands of years considering only the inherent radiotoxicities. However, if it can be assumed that the spent fuel radioactivity emplaced in a waste repository is less than 1/10 as available for human assimilation than that in a uranium ore deposit, then even under the most pessimistic set of assumptions, the EPA criteria can be considered to be complied with. 24 refs., 5 figs., 2 tabs.
Date: June 1, 1989
Creator: Cohen, J.J.; Daer, G.R.; Smith, C.F.; Vogt, D.K. & Woolfolk, S.W.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department