Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on December 18, 2020
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on April 6, 2020
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 11, 2020
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports and encourages:
- Protection of public health and the environment by the proper and timely treatment and disposal of radioactive wastes.
- The early involvement of the public and regulatory agencies in the siting and development of reliable new disposal facilities for low level and intermediate classes of radioactive waste. Disposal methods used should not place an undue burden on future generations.
- The engineered rehabilitation of existing storage and disposal facilities to continue safely meeting the needs of government and industry and avoid adversely affecting the environment.
- Public agencies to promote research and development of alternate uses of radioactive wastes, including recycling and innovative methods of radioactive waste minimization and disposal.
The disposal of low level and intermediate radioactive wastes must consider protection of public health and the environment. Changes in laws and regulations and public opposition to new disposal facilities have resulted in a significant decline in available disposal capacity for radioactive wastes. The Low-level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985 gave the states responsibility for the disposal of their low-level radioactive waste. The Act encouraged the states to enter into compacts that would allow them to dispose of waste at a common disposal facility. Most states have entered into compacts; however, only one new disposal facility has been built since the Act was passed. Additionally, the rehabilitation of existing facilities and the siting and development of disposal facilities for the U.S. Department of Defense radioactive wastes has been delayed long beyond the planned date of completion. As a result, many radioactive wastes are being temporarily stored at generation sites for permanent disposal at some indefinite time in the future.
Current efforts in developing new disposal facilities have been hindered by a lack of cooperation among the stakeholders. Increases in the costs of disposal, regulatory uncertainties in the approval of future disposal facilities, and the lack of public acceptance of new disposal facilities threaten the social benefits of nuclear technologies, in such areas as energy generation, agriculture and medical technology. Remaining space in existing disposal facilities, particularly for the more hazardous Class B and C low-level wastes as defined by 10 C.F.R. 61.55, is limited and requires urgent regulatory attention.
All radioactive wastes require safe and permanent disposal. Temporary storage of wastes at generator or other interim storage sites for permanent disposal at some future time imposes a significant burden on future generations and does not represent responsible management of wastes that pose a significant risk to public health and the environment. Limited available disposal capacity in existing disposal facilities increases the risk to the public and the environment while inhibiting research and development of additional benefits from nuclear technology. Development of new radioactive disposal facilities and rehabilitation and monitoring of existing facilities are needed, are economically justified and must be supported by regulatory action.
ASCE Policy Statement 262
First Approved in 1980