The "very stringent" standard would limit radiation exposure from the site to 15 millirem (0.15 mSv) per year, and no more than 4 millirem (0.04 mSv) per year in the groundwater, the same level under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) responded by filing lawsuits challenging the limits. The industry had sought the levels recommended by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) of a 25 millirems overall limit and no groundwater standards. The NEI claims that the recent EPA standard is contrary to the 1992 Energy Policy Act and recommendations of the US National Academy of Sciences.
Energy secretary Spencer Abraham, who had supported the NRC proposal, said the EPA standards were "tough and challenging" but that "we believe we can meet the requirements." Abraham is expected to make a recommendation to president Bush this year, and a final decision by the president is likely in early 2002.
The EPA is required by federal law to establish public radiation protection limits for a repository that protects the health and safety of nearby residents.