Cal Rad Forum is pursuing a federal solution to the problem of providing assurance of safe disposal capacity for low-level radioactive waste.  This is a new approach for an organization that has long supported implementation of the Low-Level Waste Policy Act.  Beginning in 1983, Cal Rad Forum worked diligently for implementation of the federal Low-Level Radioactive Waste (LLRW) Policy Act and establishment of a regional disposal facility in California.  We sponsored California’s disposal facility siting law in 1983, supported ratification of the Southwestern Compact in 1987, and approval of the Southwestern Compact Consent Act by Congress in 1988.  In 1983, the California Department of Health Services issued a license for the proposed Ward Valley disposal facility and certified the Environmental Impact Report.  When opponents of the project challenged the license and EIR in the state courts, Cal Rad Forum participated in the successful legal defense of the Department’s licensing and certification actions.  However, neither we, nor the State Administration of former Governor Pete Wilson were successful in persuading the Clinton Administration to transfer federal land at Ward Valley to the State of California.  In 1999, the administration of ex-Governor Gray Davis defunded the State’s regulatory program for low-level waste disposal and brought to an end the State of California’s attempts to acquire the Ward Valley site. In 2002, the Legislature passed, and ex-Governor Davis signed AB 2214 which blocks use of the Ward Valley site as the regional low-level radioactive waste disposal facility for the Southwestern Compact.  Following enactment of AB 2214, Cal Rad Forum’s Board of Directors, recognizing that the federal LLRW Policy Act is not working, decided to pursue a federal solution for low-level radioactive waste disposal.  This decision was based on the following considerations:

  • Since the Policy Act was approved by Congress in 1980, not a single new disposal facility, meeting the Act’s requirements for disposal of waste Classes A, B, and C, has been opened. Indeed, only the proposed Ward Valley project ever received a license.

  • All state programs to develop new disposal facilities, with the exception of the Texas program, have ceased.

  • Congress has ratified ten interstate disposal compacts, but the nation does not need ten disposal facilities. One or two new facilities, licensed to dispose of waste Classes A, B, and C will suffice.

  • On the nation’s present course, organizations that use radioactive materials in 34-36 states will have no place to dispose of their more radioactive categories of low-level waste (waste Classes B and C) when access to the Barnwell, SC facility is restricted to the Atlantic Compact on July 1, 2008. Time is running out.

The need for a national solution was set forth in Cal Rad Forum’s “Perspective” entitled “A National Solution for A National Problem” in the September/October 2003 issue of Radwaste Solutions, a publication of the American Nuclear Society.   

Congressional consideration of the low-level waste disposal problem.

On September 30, 2004, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held an oversight hearing on low-level radioactive waste disposal.  Witnesses included two representatives of the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), and Cal Rad Forum.  Cal Rad Forum presented testimony suggesting both near-term and long-term actions that the federal government might take to assure the safe disposal of low-level waste generated by commercial, institutional, and governmental users of radioactive materials in states that do not have access to the Richland WA and Barnwell SC disposal facilities.  For the near-term, we suggest that the federal government grant access to low-level waste disposal facilities operated by the Department of Energy. For the long-term, we suggest that the federal government develop one or two new disposal facilities on federal land under regulation by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

See Cal Rad written testimony, September 30, 2004 

See testimony of all witnesses and the Opening Remarks of Senator Pete Domenici (D-New Mexico), Chairman

Cal Rad Forum welcomes comments from other organizations concerning our proposal for a federal solution to the problem of low-level radioactive waste disposal.