Two DOE offices are responsible for waste management and disposal. The DOE-Office of Environmental Management (EM) is responsible for cleanup of radioactive and hazardous waste at DOE sites that are part of the cleanup program (see Figure 2.1). DOE-EM is also responsible for disposal of waste at its sites (i.e., low-level waste and the low-activity fraction of high-level waste) as well as for defense transuranic waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. The DOE-Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management1 (OCRWM) is responsible for disposal of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and high-level radioactive waste (HLW) from the DOE-EM cleanup program (as well as for disposal of commercial spent nuclear fuel). As noted previously, these activities are carried out under a number of different laws, orders, regulations, and agreements.


There are several sets of laws and other governmental directives that apply to the DOE-EM cleanup program and have actual or potential implications for waste form performance. These include:

  • Atomic Energy Act of 1954
  • Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982
  • Energy Policy Act of 1992
  • DOE Order 5400.1
  • DOE Order G 435.1
  • National Defense Authorization Act Section 3116

These laws and directives are described briefly in the following sections.

8.1.1 Atomic Energy Act of 1954

The Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, designates DOE as responsible for the safe management and final disposal of all radioactive wastes arising from its operations. DOE Order G 435.1, which is described in Section 8.1.5, establishes the technical basis for decisions on the classification, management, and disposal of DOE wastes except SNF and HLW. In some cases Order G 435.1 references other laws and regulations that govern DOE activities.


1 OCRWM was established by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and has responsibility for managing and disposing of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. However, the Obama Administration’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2011 eliminates funding for this office. Its responsibilities for spent fuel management are currently being handled by DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

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