Two extreme scenarios for release of radioactive waste have been constructed. In the first, a volcanic eruption releases 1 km/sup 2/ of an underground nuclear waste repository, while in the second, waste enters the drinking water reservoir of a major city. With pessimistic assumptions, upper bounds on the number of cancers due to radiation are calculated. In the volcano scenario, the effects of the waste are smaller than the effects of natural radioactivity in the volcanic dust if the delay between emplacement and eruption exceeds 2000 yr. The consequences of the waste in drinking water depend on the survival time of the canisters and the rate of leaching of the nuclides from the waste matrix. For a canister life of 400 yr and a leach time of 6300 yr the cancer rate in the affected area would increase by 25%.