ONE STEP AT A TIME

The Staged Development of Geologic Repositories for High-Level Radioactive Waste

Committee on Principles and Operational Strategies for Staged Repository Systems

Board on Radioactive Waste Management

Division on Earth and Life Studies

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
Washington, D.C.
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ONE STEP AT A TIME The Staged Development of Geologic Repositories for High-Level Radioactive Waste Committee on Principles and Operational Strategies for Staged Repository Systems Board on Radioactive Waste Management Division on Earth and Life Studies NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS Washington, D.C. www.nap.edu

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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competence and with regard for appropriate balance. Support for this study was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy under cooperative agreement number DE-FG08-97NV12056. All opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Energy. International Standard Book Number: 0-309-08708-2 Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC20055; (800) 624–6242 or (202) 334–3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu Cover: The development of geologic repositories for the disposal of high-level radioactive waste presents technical and societal challenges. As is the case for other first-of-a-kind and complex projects, repository programs should proceed in stages, or steps, as recognized in waste disposal programs worldwide. Copyright 2003 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America

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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Wm.A.Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V.Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and of advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce Alberts and Dr. Wm.A.Wulf are chairman and vice-chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.org

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COMMITTEE ON PRINCIPLES AND OPERATIONAL STRATEGIES FOR STAGED REPOSITORY SYSTEMS CHARLES MCCOMBIE, Chair, Independent consultant, Switzerland DAVID E. DANIEL, Vice-Chair, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign ROBERT M. BERNERO, United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (retired), Gaithersburg, Maryland RADFORD BYERLY, Jr., University of Colorado BARBARA L. DUTROW, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge JERRY M. HARRIS, Stanford University, California THOMAS ISAACS, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California LEONARD F. KONIKOW, United States Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia TODD R. LAPORTE, University of California-Berkeley JANE C. S. LONG, Mackay School of Mines, University of Nevada, Reno WERNER LUTZE, Catholic University of America, Washington, District of Columbia EUGENE A. ROSA, Washington State University, Pullman ATSUYUKI SUZUKI, University of Tokyo, Japan WENDELL WEART, Sandia National Laboratories (retired), Albuquerque, New Mexico (resigned from the committee on December 31, 2002) Staff BARBARA PASTINA, Study Director LATRICIA C. BAILEY, Senior Project Assistant DARLA J. THOMPSON, Research Assistant

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BOARD ON RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT JOHN F. AHEARNE, Chair, Sigma Xi and Duke University, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina CHARLES MCCOMBIE, Vice Chair, Consultant, Gipf-Oberfrick, Switzerland ROBERT M. BERNERO, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (retired), Gaithersburg, Maryland GREGORY R. CHOPPIN, Florida State University, Tallahassee RODNEY C. EWING, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor JAMES H. JOHNSON, JR., Howard University, Washington, D.C. HOWARD C. KUNREUTHER, University of Pennsylvania NIKOLAY LAVEROV, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow MILTON LEVENSON, Bechtel International (retired), Menlo Park, California JANE C. S. LONG, Mackay School of Mines, University of Nevada, Reno ALEXANDER MACLACHLAN, E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (retired), Wilmington, Delaware NORINE E. NOONAN, College of Charleston, South Carolina EUGENE A. ROSA, Washington State University, Pullman ATSUYUKI SUZUKI, University of Tokyo, Japan VICTORIA J. TSCHINKEL, The Nature Conservancy, Altamonte Springs, Florida Staff KEVIN D. CROWLEY, Director MICAH D. LOWENTHAL, Staff Officer BARBARA PASTINA, Senior Staff Officer JOHN R. WILEY, Senior Staff Officer TONI GREENLEAF, Administrative Associate DARLA J. THOMPSON, Research Assistant LATRICIA C. BAILEY, Senior Project Assistant LAURA D. LLANOS, Senior Project Assistant ANGELA R. TAYLOR, Senior Project Assistant JAMES YATES, JR., Office Assistant

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Preface Recent decades have witnessed a continuing worldwide debate on the management of radioactive high-level waste,1 and recent developments, including both major advances and setbacks, in various countries have led to an intensification of this debate. Geologic disposal involves placing high-level waste in a carefully selected, deep underground repository, where it remains isolated from the accessible environment for very long time periods until the waste no longer represents a hazard to humans or to the accessible environment. Disposal in a carefully sited and designed geologic repository is recognized by most of the international technical community, including the National Research Council, as a long-term management option for high-level waste that provides a high degree of safety and security (NEA, 1991, 1999a,b; NRC, 1957, 2001). However, geologic disposal of high-level waste has proven to be a major challenge for many nations. Delays and setbacks have been common, often attributable to the difficulties of simultaneously addressing technical and societal challenges (NRC, 2001). Previous National Research Council committees have recommended a staged, or stepwise, approach for geologic disposal programs to address these technical and societal challenges (NRC, 1990, 2001). The 2001 National Research Council report Disposition of High-Level Waste and Spent Nuclear Fuel concluded: “For both scientific and societal reasons, national programs should proceed in a phased or stepwise manner, supported by dialogue and analysis” (NRC, 2001; p. 5). Other international organizations, such as the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), and the International Association for the Environmentally Safe Disposal of Radioactive Materials (EDRAM),2 also observed: “There is a general common trend towards advocacy of prudent, stepwise approaches at the implementational and regulatory level to allow smaller incremental steps in the societal decision making process” (NEA, 1999a; p. 11). and suggested: “The stepwise approach could be a way to solve the problems involved in the implementation of radwaste [radioactive waste] management. It consists of a process where discrete and explicit steps are taken in repository planning and where the possibility of public input to the process is clearly stated. By increasing the transparency of the decision-making process, any counter-productive effects of public participation programmes may be avoided” (EDRAM, 2002; pp. 13–14). 1   In this report the term “high-level waste” includes defense-related high-level radioactive waste from reprocessing nuclear fuels, commercial spent nuclear fuel if it is considered to be a waste, and other nuclear materials designated for disposal along with reprocessing waste and spent nuclear fuel. 2   This association comprises organizations (private companies and governmental agencies) responsible for radioactive waste management from 11 countries: Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

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Other review groups set up independently of implementers and regulators have also recommended a staged approach to repository development (EKRA, 2000; AkEnd, 2002). As the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) approaches a license application for Yucca Mountain, it faces some significant choices with respect to the design and operation of a repository. Because the Yucca Mountain repository would be a first-of-a-kind engineering project, DOE is considering a staged approach for its design, construction, operation, and closure. That is, DOE would make decisions about the repository in a stepwise fashion, commensurate with the available level of technical and policy understanding, and in a manner that allows for subsequent reversal, if warranted. Although the concept of repository staging is receiving increased attention in many national waste disposal programs, including the Yucca Mountain Project, it is not well understood in an operational sense, nor has its implementation been considered in much detail. Therefore, the DOE’s Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management asked the National Research Council for advice on operational strategies for the development of a geologic repository for high-level waste. In the letter requesting this study, DOE wrote: “I believe that it would be very helpful to have advice from the National Research Council on strategies the Department [of Energy] could pursue for staging the design, construction, operation, and closure of a repository in a safe, secure, cost effective, and societally acceptable fashion.… Although the concept of repository staging is receiving increased attention by repository programs in the United States and many other countries, it is not well understood in an operational sense.… The potential benefits of staging, however, are very clear. From a technical perspective, staging provides opportunities for continuous learning and improvement over the life of a repository program. From a societal perspective, staging can provide for safe and secure waste disposal while also providing assurance to society that a system of checks and balances is in place to detect problems so that timely corrective actions can be taken if needed” (Itkin, 2000). This report provides a systematic framework for a particular stepwise approach for repository development, termed “Adaptive Staging” (see Chapter 2), together with operational suggestions on how this approach can be applied in practice. Acknowledgments This report has been reviewed in accordance with the procedures of the National Research Council and reflects the consensus of the committee.3 The report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s Report Review Committee. This independent review provides candid and critical comments that assist the National Research Council both in making the published report technically sound and in ensuring that the report meets National Research Council institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report: 3   The National Research Council’s Committee on Principles and Operational Strategies for Staged Repository Systems (see Appendix A).

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John F. Ahearne, Sigma Xi, and Duke University Roger E. Kasperson, Stockholm Environment Institute Yves Le Bars, French National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management Kai N. Lee, Williams College Arjun Makhijani, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research Sören Norrby, Swedish National Council for Nuclear Waste Frank L. Parker, Vanderbilt University Mary Lou Zoback, U.S. Geological Survey Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Paul B.Barton, Jr., U.S. Geological Survey, Geologist Emeritus, and John Applegate, Indiana University School of Law. Appointed by the National Research Council, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with National Research Council procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Research Council. This study could not have been completed without the assistance of many individuals and organizations. The committee thanks DOE staff members from the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, the Yucca Mountain Project, national laboratories, and contractors, as well as staff of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, State of Nevada, Nuclear Energy Institute, and numerous international and national experts for contributing to lively discussions and providing insights into the committee’s task. In particular, the committee thanks all speakers at the information-gathering meetings (see Appendix B). The committee is especially grateful to the following staff members of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management: Jeffrey Williams, the committee’s liaison, for his help and support in the committee’s activities; Ivan Itkin and Lake Barrett, former director and acting director, respectively, and Margaret Chu, present director, for their interest in, and commitment to, this study. The committee also thanks the National Research Council staff who helped initiate and steered this project. Barbara Pastina directed the study in a manner that was most productive, effective and efficient. Without her enthusiasm and drive, her ability to produce and edit text, and her personal skills in communication, this difficult task may well have proved impossible. Throughout the project, Barbara was ably assisted by Darla Thompson for research, and by Latricia Bailey (who also guaranteed that a very special product—a baby—would emerge from this study), Toni Greenleaf, James Yates, and temporary staff for administrative tasks. The Director of the Board on Radioactive Waste Management, Kevin Crowley, provided staff and the committee with constant encouragement, guidance and support, as well as specific valuable advice. Finally, at a personal level, the Chair and Vice-Chair would like to thank all individual members of the committee. Long discussion sessions, longer writing sessions, yet longer conference calls and over 1,500 e-mails testify to the effort that has been put in by all. We have been working in a controversial area. A wide spectrum of views is present in the committee itself and we have a responsibility to present the equally wide spectrum of other stakeholder opinions. We have been working at a sensitive time in the repository program of the United States, so that every statement made by the committee may be subjected to a range of interpretations. This has increased the pressure on the committee members. It is gratifying that friendships have not been lost or weakened by

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this, but rather made and strengthened throughout the one and a half years of this project. It has been a rewarding learning experience for us all. Charles McCombie, Chair David Daniel, Vice-Chair

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Contents     Executive Summary,   1 Chapter 1   Introduction,   13     1.1 Statement of task,   13     1.2 A generic geologic repository program,   16 Chapter 2   Staged Approaches to Project Development,   25     2.1 Different types of approaches to staging: Linear and Adaptive,   25     2.2 The safety case at the heart of Adaptive Staging,   26     2.3 Attributes of Adaptive Staging,   29     2.4 The decision-making process,   31     2.5 Criteria for Adaptive Staging,   34     2.6 Meeting Adaptive Staging criteria does not guarantee success,   38     2.7 Geologic repository programs meet the Adaptive Staging criteria,   40     2.8 Staging in non-U.S. national repository programs,   43 Chapter 3   A Typical Geologic Repository Program,   45     3.1 Technical context,   45     3.2 Institutional and societal context,   54     3.3 Adaptive Staging is suitable for the development of a geologic repository,   60 Chapter 4   Impacts of Adaptive Staging on a Repository Program,   62     4.1 Knowledge gaps,   62     4.2 Impact on repository program’s phases,   65     4.3 Impact on buffer storage requirements,   80     4.4 Impact on transportation,   80     4.5 Impact on program schedule and costs,   81     4.6 Impact on the monitoring program,   83     4.7 Impact on the long-term science and technology program,   87     4.8 Impact on safety,   89     4.9 Impact on security,   90

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    4.10 Impact on the regulatory framework,   91     4.11 Impact on the institutional and societal context,   93     4.12 Summary of potential benefits and drawbacks of Adaptive Staging,   96 Chapter 5   Specific Applications to the Yucca Mountain Project,   99     5.1 Impacts of Adaptive Staging on the U.S. repository program,   99     5.2 Committee’s assessment of the U.S. approach to staging,   107     5.3 Challenges facing the U.S. repository program,   107     5.4 Addressing these challenges,   108 Chapter 6   Findings and Recommendations,   123     6.1 Committee’s definition of a successful repository program,   123     6.2 Adaptive staging offers a promising approach to successful geologic repository development,   124     6.3 Effective Adaptive Staging involves the entire waste management system,   125     6.4 Iteration of the safety case is central to Adaptive Staging for geologic repositories,   126     6.5 Adaptive Staging requires continuous and active learning in both technical and societal fields,   127     6.6 Adaptive Staging encourages opportunities for interactions with stakeholders and the general public,   127     6.7 Adaptive Staging can be compatible with current regulatory systems,   128     6.8 DOE has recognized potential advantages of staging,   129     6.9 Specific impacts of Adaptive Staging on the U.S. program,   130     6.10 Recommendations: General,   130     6.11 Recommendations: U.S. program,   134     6.12 Concluding remarks,   136     References,   138     Appendixes     Appendix A,   Biographical Sketches of Committee Members,   145 Appendix B,   Information-Gathering Meetings,   150 Appendix C,   NASA’s Apollo and Space Station Programs,   153 Appendix D,   Staging from an International Perspective,   159

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Appendix E,   Environmental Monitoring and Adaptive Staging,   174 Appendix F,   Overview of U.S. Geologic Repository Programs,   182 Appendix G,   Glossary,   199

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