"Management of civilian radioactive waste has posed difficult issues for Congress since the beginning of the nuclear power industry in the 1950s. Federal policy is based on the premise that nuclear waste can be disposed of safely, but proposed storage and disposal facilities have frequently been challenged on safety, health, and environmental grounds. Although civilian radioactive waste encompasses a wide range of materials, most of the current debate focuses on highly radioactive spent fuel from nuclear power plants. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (NWPA) calls for disposal of spent nuclear fuel in a deep geologic repository. NWPA established an office in the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop such a repository and required the program's civilian costs to be covered by a fee on nuclear-generated electricity, paid into the Nuclear Waste Fund. Amendments to NWPA in 1987 restricted DOE's repository site studies to Yucca Mountain in Nevada. DOE is studying numerous scientific issues at Yucca Mountain in preparing a license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for the planned repository. Questions about the site include the likelihood of earthquakes, volcanoes, water infiltration, and human intrusion."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33461