Laws & Regulations

Summary of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act

42 U.S.C. ยง10101 et seq. (1982)

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) supports the use of deep geologic repositories for the safe storage and/or disposal of radioactive waste. The Act establishes procedures to evaluate and select sites for geologic repositories and for the interaction of state and federal governments. It also provides a timetable of key milestones the federal agencies must meet in carrying out the program.

The NWPA assigns the Department of Energy (DOE) the responsibility to site, build, and operate a deep geologic repository for the disposal of high-level waste and spent nuclear fuel. It directs EPA to develop standards for protection of the general environment from offsite releases of radioactive material in repositories. The Act directs the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to license DOE to operate a repository only if it meets EPA's standards and all other relevant requirements.

Amendments to the NWPA:

  • Direct DOE to consider Yucca Mountain as the primary site for the first geologic repository.
  • Prohibit DOE from conducting site specific activities at a second site unless authorized by Congress.
  • Require the Secretary of Energy to develop a report on the need for a second repository no later than January 1, 2010.
  • Established a commission to study the need and feasibility of a monitored retrievable storage facility.

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The Office of Air and Radiation (OAR) develops national programs, policies, and regulations for controlling air pollution and radiation exposure.