• environmental laws and regulations, in particular, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and its amendments;

  • legal suits between DOE and utility companies affecting waste shipment schedules;

  • legal suits between the State of Nevada, DOE, and other federal agencies; and

  • the attitude of the stakeholders and the general public toward the U.S. nuclear waste program and the Yucca Mountain Project, in particular.

Following Congress’ approval for DOE to move to the license application phase, DOE is currently facing the following major challenges:6

  • finalizing repository design and operational strategies for the license application;

  • obtaining a license to construct the repository and emplace waste;

  • planning for interim or buffer storage requirements;

  • constructing the repository and beginning operations under current schedules and budgets;

  • designing and implementing a transportation plan;

  • working to maintain or enhance scientific and institutional credibility;

  • working to maintain effective working relationships with the nuclear power utility companies who possess the spent fuel to be disposed of at Yucca Mountain; and

  • improving working relationships with stakeholders and the general public.

The committee discusses below how Adaptive Staging is a possible approach to enhance the chances of successfully addressing these challenges. The committee acknowledges that Adaptive Staging is not the only management approach that can address these challenges and recognizes that other project management approaches have many features in common with Adaptive Staging. Moreover, because Adaptive Staging is untested, there is no guarantee that adaptive changes will have a positive impact on the DOE program. Nevertheless, as discussed in Chapter 4, the committee believes this approach is promising. It is important to recognize that, to be effective, all of the attributes of Adaptive Staging must be adhered to, not just a selected few. Satisfying a given attribute may be necessary but not sufficient to address the challenge in question.

5.4 Addressing these challenges

The committee believes that there are substantial opportunities for DOE to implement Adaptive Staging in the current program. The sooner Adaptive Staging is adopted, the more effective it likely will be.


These challenges were formulated on the basis of the committee’s expertise and through discussion with DOE representatives. Challenges are not presented in a priority order.

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