Review of U.S. Department of Energy Technical Basis Report for Surface Characteristics, Preclosure Hydrology, and Erosion

Committee for Yucca Mountain Peer Review: Surface Characteristics, Preclosure Hydrology, and Erosion

Board on Radioactive Waste Management

Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C.
1995



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Review of U.S. Department of Energy Technical Basis Report for Surface Characteristics, Preclosure Hydrology, and Erosion Review of U.S. Department of Energy Technical Basis Report for Surface Characteristics, Preclosure Hydrology, and Erosion Committee for Yucca Mountain Peer Review: Surface Characteristics, Preclosure Hydrology, and Erosion Board on Radioactive Waste Management Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C. 1995

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Review of U.S. Department of Energy Technical Basis Report for Surface Characteristics, Preclosure Hydrology, and Erosion 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 competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by the Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. This report was prepared with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy, Grant No. DE-FG08-92NV11227. All opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of DOE. Additional copies of this report are available from: Board on Radioactive Waste Management 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20418 Call 202-334-3066 Copyright 1995 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America

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Review of U.S. Department of Energy Technical Basis Report for Surface Characteristics, Preclosure Hydrology, and Erosion COMMITTEE FOR YUCCA MOUNTAIN PEER REVIEW: SURFACE CHARACTERISTICS, PRECLOSURE HYDROLOGY, AND EROSION ERNEST T. SMERDON, Chair, University of Arizona, Tucson JEAN M. BAHR, Vice Chair, University of Wisconsin, Madison VICTOR R. BAKER, University of Arizona, Tucson SUSAN L. BRANTLEY, Pennsylvania State University, University Park WILLIAM A. JURY, University of California, Riverside MARK D. KURZ, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts LEONARD J. LANE, Southwest Watershed Research Center, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Tucson, Arizona KAREN L. PRESTEGAARD, University of Maryland, College Park STAFF CARL A. ANDERSON, Director KEVIN D. CROWLEY, Associate Director & Study Director REBECCA BURKA, Senior Project Assistant SCOTT A. HASSELL, Intern ERIKA L. WILLIAMS, Project Assistant

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Review of U.S. Department of Energy Technical Basis Report for Surface Characteristics, Preclosure Hydrology, and Erosion BOARD ON RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT MICHAEL C. KAVANAUGH, Chair, ENVIRON Corporation, Emeryville, California B. JOHN GARRICK, Vice Chair, PLG, Inc., Newport Beach, California JOHN F. AHEARNE, Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina JEAN M. BAHR, University of Wisconsin, Madison LYNDA L. BROTHERS, Davis Wright Tremaine, Seattle, Washington SOL BURSTEIN, Wisconsin Electric Power, Milwaukee (retired) MELVIN W. CARTER, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta (emeritus) PAUL P. CRAIG, University of California, Davis (emeritus) MARY R. ENGLISH, University of Tennessee, Knoxville ROBERT D. HATCHER, JR., University of Tennessee/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Knoxville DARLEANE C. HOFFMAN, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley, California PERRY L. McCARTY, Stanford University, California CHARLES McCOMBIE, National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste, Wettingen, Switzerland H. ROBERT MEYER, Keystone Scientific, Inc., Fort Collins, Colorado PRISCILLA P. NELSON, University of Texas, Austin D. KIRK NORDSTROM, U.S. Geological Survey, Boulder, Colorado D. WARNER NORTH, Decision Focus, Inc., Mountain View, California GLENN PAULSON, Paulson and Cooper, Inc., Jackson Hole, Wyoming PAUL SLOVIC, Decision Research, Eugene, Oregon BENJAMIN L. SMITH, Independent Consultant, Columbia, Tennessee STAFF CARL A. ANDERSON, Staff Director KEVIN D. CROWLEY, Associate Director ROBERT S. ANDREWS, Senior Staff Officer KARYANIL T. THOMAS, Senior Staff Officer THOMAS E. KIESS, Staff Officer SUSAN B. MOCKLER, Research Associate LISA J. CLENDENING, Administrative Associate ROBIN L. ALLEN, Senior Project Assistant REBECCA BURKA, Senior Project Assistant DENNIS L. DUPREE, Senior Project Assistant SCOTT A. HASSELL, Intern PATRICIA A. JONES, Project Assistant ERIKA L. WILLIAMS, Project Assistant

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Review of U.S. Department of Energy Technical Basis Report for Surface Characteristics, Preclosure Hydrology, and Erosion COMMISSION ON GEOSCIENCES, ENVIRONMENT, AND RESOURCES M. GORDON WOLMAN, Chairman, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland PATRICK R. ATKINS, Aluminum Company of America, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania JAMES P. BRUCE, Canadian Climate Program Board, Ottawa, Ontario WILLIAM L. FISHER, University of Texas, Austin GEORGE M. HORNBERGER, University of Virginia, Charlottesville DEBRA KNOPMAN, Progressive Foundation, Washington, D.C. PERRY L. McCARTY, Stanford University, California JUDY McDOWELL, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts S. GEORGE PHILANDER, Princeton University, New Jersey RAYMOND A. PRICE, Queen's University at Kingston, Ontario THOMAS A. SCHELLING, University of Maryland, College Park ELLEN SILBERGELD, University of Maryland Medical School, Baltimore STEVEN M. STANLEY, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland VICTORIA J. TSCHINKEL, Landers and Parsons, Tallahassee, Florida STAFF STEPHEN RATTIEN, Executive Director STEPHEN D. PARKER, Associate Executive Director MORGAN GOPNIK, Assistant Executive Director GREGORY SYMMES, Reports Officer JAMES MALLORY, Administrative Officer SANDI FITZPATRICK, Administrative Associate SUSAN SHERWIN, Project Assistant

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Review of U.S. Department of Energy Technical Basis Report for Surface Characteristics, Preclosure Hydrology, and Erosion 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. Harold Liebowitz 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. Kenneth Shine 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 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. Harold Liebowitz are the chairman and vice-chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

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Review of U.S. Department of Energy Technical Basis Report for Surface Characteristics, Preclosure Hydrology, and Erosion PREFACE The Nuclear Waste Policy Act1 designates Yucca Mountain, Nevada, as the candidate site for the nation's first permanent geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel and high-level nuclear waste. The act charges the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM) with conducting the necessary studies to determine whether the Yucca Mountain site meets the technical and regulatory requirements for a permanent repository. To meet this responsibility, OCRWM established the Yucca Mountain Site Characterization Office (YMSCO) to conduct the necessary investigations and analyses. As part of its site characterization effort, YMSCO plans to issue a series of technical basis reports that will summarize and synthesize data, analyses, and interpretations on the following siting-related technical topics:2 surface characteristics, preclosure hydrology, and erosion seismicity, tectonics, and volcanism; rock characteristics and geochemistry; preclosure radiological safety; geohydrology and transport; and total system performance assessment. 1   The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (P.L. 97-425) was signed into law in 1983 and amended in 1987 (P.L. 100-203) and 1992 (P.L. 102-486). 2   The Department of Energy is in the process of reorganizing its site characterization program in response to cuts in its FY1996 budget. The committee understands that the DOE may not issue the remaining technical basis reports, but may instead focus on total system performance assessment—which was to be the topic of the sixth and final technical basis report.

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Review of U.S. Department of Energy Technical Basis Report for Surface Characteristics, Preclosure Hydrology, and Erosion These technical basis reports will be used to support regulatory analyses by YMSCO to determine whether the Yucca Mountain site is suitable as a nuclear waste repository. In late 1994, YMSCO asked the National Research Council to undertake independent, expert peer reviews of these technical basis reports. YMSCO asked the Research Council to analyze the manner in which scientific and technical information was collected, analyzed, and interpreted by DOE and its contractors and, at a minimum, to address the following questions: Have the data been collected and analyzed in a technically acceptable manner? Do the data, given the associated error and analytical and technical uncertainties, support the technical interpretations and conclusions made within the technical basis reports? Are there credible alternative interpretations that would significantly alter the conclusions reached? What testing, if any, would discriminate among alternative technical interpretations? If such testing is recommended, how effective would it be at reducing significant uncertainties? YMSCO asked that the review not address regulatory compliance or the suitability of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository. The Research Council's Governing Board agreed to undertake these peer reviews in February 1995. The approved statement of task is given in Appendix C. The Governing Board assigned the

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Review of U.S. Department of Energy Technical Basis Report for Surface Characteristics, Preclosure Hydrology, and Erosion responsibility for implementing these reviews to the Board on Radioactive Waste Management within the Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources, subject to overall management and control by the Research Council, particularly its Executive Office. Because the technical basis reports will differ substantially in subject and content, the Research Council's Governing Board decided that a different group of experts (committees) would be appointed to review each report. Each expert committee will set forth its review findings and conclusions in a National Research Council report that will be provided to OCRWM and made available to the public without restriction. The Committee for Yucca Mountain Peer Review: Surface Characteristics, Preclosure Hydrology, and Erosion (see Appendix B) was appointed by the Chair of the National Research Council in June 1995 to review the Technical Basis Report for Surface Characteristics, Preclosure Hydrology, and Erosion (DOE Report YMP/TBR-001, Rev. 0, April 1995), referred to as the TBR. The committee held three meetings to gather information and develop its final report (this document), which provides the committee's review and a discussion of its findings and conclusions. The committee wishes to acknowledge the assistance of several organizations and individuals who made it possible to complete this review on a very compressed time schedule. Jane Summerson (YMSCO) and her staff were very responsive to the committee's many requests for written materials during the course of this review. They also provided organizational and logistical support for the field excursion to Yucca Mountain. Carl Johnson

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Review of U.S. Department of Energy Technical Basis Report for Surface Characteristics, Preclosure Hydrology, and Erosion (Nevada Nuclear Waste Project Office) and his staff made available to the committee numerous documents that were not referenced in the TBR, and they provided advice and logistical support for the field excursion. Mary Ball, Secretary of the town of Beatty, Nevada, graciously opened the town's community center to the committee on a Sunday for a public session during the second meeting. The committee wishes to express its appreciation to all of these individuals for their assistance, and to the other individuals and organizations who provided oral and written input to the committee at its two information-gathering sessions.