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Key Issues Nuclear Energy Issues Yucca Mountain DOE Reclamation Programs

Yucca Mountain and the environment
June 2000

The Yucca Mountain Project places a high priority on protecting the environment. To ensure compliance with all state and federal environmental laws and regulations, the Project established an Environmental Management System. Important elements of the Environmental Management System include the following:

  • Environmental monitoring of air, water, and other natural resources

  • Land stewardship — protecting plant and animal species by minimizing land disturbance and restoring vegetation and wildlife habitat

  • Cultural resources

  • Pollution prevention and waste minimization

  • Waste management

Reducing the impacts of Project activities on the environment will continue for the duration of the Project.

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Environmental monitoring

Many environmental scientists work on the Yucca Mountain Project. Over the course of the past 20 years, we have established a regional monitoring system to gather information for protect-ing biological resources (such as plants and animals), cultural resources, air quality, and water resources. Biologists, such as the one in the photo to the left, have studied the area’s primary plant and animal species. Environmental scientists also monitor air and water quality. Information gathered from monitoring is used in developing plans and methods to prevent adverse impacts to the natural resources at Yucca Mountain.

Information from these studies was also used in our environmen-tal impact statement to assess the impacts of the Yucca Mountain Project on the environment.*

Land stewardship

Stewardship of land resources is accomplished through a program based on minimizing the land area that is disturbed by Project activities, managing activities and disturbed sites to reduce and prevent additional impacts, and then restoring disturbed areas to their natural state when Project activities are completed. Pictured in the photo collage are a re-vegetation study plot and a mulching process underway. Both of these are important elements to restoring disturbed areas.Through this program, our scientists preserve and protect the threat-ened desert tortoise and its habitat, cultural resources, air quality, and water resources.

The reclamation program is part of our land steward-ship efforts and involves restoring native vegetation on disturbed areas.The Project has already successfully restored disturbed areas and will continue these efforts throughout the life of the Project.

Cultural resources

The Yucca Mountain Project is committed to protecting the archaeological and historic resources located within the Yucca Mountain area. Our Cultural Resources Man-agement program has two components: an archeology program and a Native American interaction program.

Archaeologists have surveyed and catalogued most of the area’s significant cultural resources and historic sites in the Yucca Mountain area.The Native American inhab-itants of the area were documented, as well as how they used the plant and animal resources (like desert tortoises) of the Yucca Mountain area.

The Native American interaction program was initiated in 1987 to protect the area’s cultural resources. This program promotes information exchange among 17 tribes and organizations from Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and California.The program provides ways for the tribes to keep us informed of their cultural and environmental concerns and for us to inform the tribes of Project plans and activities.

Pollution prevention and waste minimization

Pollution prevention seeks to minimize waste and impacts to natural resources, use alternative energy, and promote environmental awareness among Yucca Mountain Project employees. Our goals are to reduce the use of non-renewable resources, and identify and use environmentally safe products whenever possible.

Employees are trained to place a high priority on environmental issues and to incorporate pollution prevention goals into project planning and daily work activities.

Waste management

Although we strive to minimize the amount of waste generated by Project activities through the pollution prevention program, not all waste can be eliminated. Our waste management program ensures that we properly manage and dispose of hazardous and non-hazardous waste according to state and federal laws. This helps prevent pollution, ensures the safety and health of our workers and the public, and protects the environment.