Specific Applications to the Yucca Mountain Project
This chapter contains the committee’s observations on application of Adaptive Staging to the U.S. repository program and the committee’s assessment of the current Department of Energy (DOE) approach to staging. To develop specific and constructive advice, this chapter follows a different approach from the generic Chapter 4 by identifying the main challenges DOE is facing in the immediate future and discussing how these might be addressed with Adaptive Staging.
The Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) of 1982 established a framework for implementing a geologic repository for high-level waste in the United States (NWPA, 1982). The U.S. repository program for high-level waste, proposed for Yucca Mountain, Nevada, is now entering the licensing phase. DOE has set (and revised) a roadmap for completion of the repository program (DOE-OCRWM, 2001 b) according to the schedule established in the NWPA and its amendments. Figure 5.1 shows the current (as of January 2003) milestones (see also Appendix F). Several major events took place during this study: in 2002, DOE submitted the site suitability recommendation to the President, the President recommended the site to Congress, the State of Nevada vetoed the recommendation, and Congress over-rode Nevada’s veto and authorized DOE to apply for a license to construct the repository at Yucca Mountain. Section 5.3 lists the challenges presently facing DOE and Section 5.4 describes how Adaptive Staging could address these challenges. Further information on the Yucca Mountain project is provided in Appendix F and references therein.
5.1 Impacts of Adaptive Staging on the U.S. repository program
Impacts of Adaptive Staging on a generic repository program are given in Chapter 4 while specific impacts on the Yucca Mountain Project are in the following section.
Chapter 4 addressed in general the impacts that Adaptive Staging can have on the licensing phase (Section 4.2.1) and on the regulatory framework (Section 4.10). One U.S.-specific impact is that much greater emphasis would be placed on the formulation and periodic evaluation of a safety case, as defined in Sidebar 2.1, and tailored to the Yucca Mountain project in Sidebar 5.1. The U.S. regulations require DOE to submit a safety analysis but not a safety case. The technical content is, however, equivalent (see Sidebar 5.1). Although the regulation does not use the term safety case, the USNRC Yucca Mountain Review Plan reads:
SIDEBAR 5.1 DOE’s Safety Case for Yucca Mountain
The committee uses the term “safety case” in the broad sense described in Sidebar 2.1, that is, a collection of arguments reassessed at given stages of repository development in support of the safety of the repository. The committee believes that the Department of Energy (DOE), as the repository implementer, should develop the broad safety case, as described in Section 2.1 , for guiding its safety work and explaining its safety arguments. To see how this conforms to the licensing requirements in the United States, it is necessary to look at the terminology and procedures defined by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) regulations.
The term safety case is not used by the USNRC for the analysis of post-closure safety, which is of greatest relevance here. The applicant (DOE) is required to submit a complete application and an environmental impact statement that are sufficient for the USNRC to make a determination of safety for the repository, including “reasonable expectation that the materials can be disposed of without unreasonable risk to the health and safety of the public” (10 CFR Part 63.31). A central element of the complete application is to be a performance assessment. Performance assessment (definition from 10 CFR 63.2) means an analysis that:
“(1) Identifies the features, events, processes (except human intrusion), and sequences of events and processes (except human intrusion) that might affect the Yucca Mountain disposal system and their probabilities of occurring during 10,000 years after disposal;
(2) Examines the effects of those features, events, processes, and sequences of events and processes upon the performance of the Yucca Mountain disposal system; and
(3) Estimates the dose incurred by the reasonably maximally exposed individual, including the associated uncertainties, as a result of releases caused by all significant features, events, processes, and sequences of events and processes, weighted by their probability of occurrence” (66 Federal Register 55794, November 2, 2001).
Specific requirements for the performance assessment are also described in the regulations (see 10 CFR 63.114) and these are broadly similar to the safety case concept described by the committee. The USNRC stipulates that the performance assessment must:
“[…] (b) Account for uncertainties and variabilities in parameter values and provide for the technical basis for parameter ranges, probability distributions, or bounding values used in the performance assessment.
(c) Consider alternative conceptual models of features and processes that are consistent with available data and current scientific understanding and evaluate the effects that alternative conceptual models have on the performance of the geologic repository. […]
(e) Provide the technical basis for either inclusion or exclusion of specific features, events, and processes in the performance assessment.…
(f) Provide the technical basis for either inclusion or exclusion of degradation, deterioration, or alteration processes of engineered barriers in the performance assessment, including those processes that would adversely affect the performance of natural barriers.…
(g) Provide the technical basis for models used in the performance assessment such as comparisons made with outputs of detailed process-level models and/or empirical observations (e.g., laboratory testing, field investigations, and natural analogs)” (66 Federal Register 55807, November 2, 2001).
In its performance assessment analyses, DOE regularly presents estimates of radiation exposures that peak long after the 10,000-year term of regulatory compliance. The USNRC does not indicate whether it will consider or evaluate results beyond the 10,000-year compliance term, but the USNRC does require the DOE application to be accompanied by the environmental impact statement that presents and evaluates these results.a In response to concerns that performance assessments would be relied upon as the sole quantitative technique for evaluating compliance the USNRC stated:
“Although repository post-closure performance is evaluated with respect to a single performance measure for individual protection, the NRC considers a broad range of information in arriving at a licensing decision. In the case of the proposed repository at Yucca Mountain, Part 63 contains a number of requirements (e.g., qualitative requirements for data and other information, the consideration and treatment of uncertainties, the demonstration of multiple barriers, performance confirmation program, and QA program) designed to increase confidence that the post-closure performance objective is satisfied. The Commission will rely on the performance assessment as well as these other requirements in making a decision…” (66 Federal Register 55746, November 2, 2001).
When comparing these requirements with the characteristics of the safety case, the technical content appears to be equivalent. The primary differences are that the safety case presents key safety arguments understandably by a wider audience and it is updated more often.
“The [USNRC] staff will decide which [model] abstractions are important to performance, by using risk insights gained from performance assessments, knowledge of site characteristics and repository design, and review of the U.S. Department of Energy safety case” (USNRC, 2002, Section 188.8.131.52, pp. 4.2–16).
The USNRC Center for Nuclear Waste Regulatory Analyses also recently published an article on the importance of transparency and traceability in building a safety case for high-level waste repositories (Mohanty and Sagar, 2002).
At each Decision Point, new information is evaluated and used to update the safety case, if necessary. Then this updated safety case together with all relevant information are used to decide, how to proceed (i.e., whether to proceed on the original course or revise the course of action in the reference framework). The committee does not imply that the safety case should be an additional USNRC licensing requirement or that the regulations are inadequate to evaluate repository safety.
Some Decision Points for DOE correspond to the decisions to apply for licenses (i.e., the next license for whatever point the program currently finds itself). DOE is responsible for the license application but the actual decision to issue a license is made by the USNRC.
DOE has so far attempted to describe a safety case for Yucca Mountain in the iterative series of documents called “Repository Safety Strategy.” To date, DOE has issued four versions of the safety strategy for a Yucca Mountain repository. The OECD/NEA and IAEA jointly reviewed revision 3 of DOE’s safety strategy and concluded that:
“[revision 3] is a first commendable attempt at outlining the strategy for achieving safety and for demonstrating compliance with the regulations as well as the basis for confidence in the analyses. The [review team] suggests that the information contained in [revision 3] should be updated and extended, and used as a basis for developing the proposed safety case document for the next phase of the programme” (NEA, 2002, p. 58).
The IAEA recently recommended that further work be undertaken for “establishing generally the content of a safety case” (IAEA, 2001b, attachment 1, p. 2). The joint NEA-IAEA International Peer Review of the Yucca Mountain Site Characterization Project’s Total System Performance Assessment recommended “A safety case report should be developed along the lines discussed in the NEA confidence document” (NEA, 2001a, Section 5.3; Recommendations for Future Assessements). The committee agrees with this recommendation. DOE expressed to the committee and to the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board its commitment to pursue its efforts in preparing a safety case (Van Luik, 2001; Ziegler, 2002).
Another impact of Adaptive Staging on the first (construction) license application is that the implementer and regulator must both be clear about the possibility of, and mechanisms for, implementing Adaptive Staging. It is important that both organizations recognize and distinguish those DOE actions, such as changes in the reference design, tests, or experiments, that require USNRC approval in advance, and those that can be made without advance approval. The USNRC has already identified and provided decision criteria for some changes, tests, and experiments that can be made without advance regulatory approval in 10 CFR Part 63.44(b)(1). The first construction authorization application with Adaptive Staging would explicitly address this distinction.
DOE could choose in its first application for a construction authorization to propose a pilot stage of the reference design. The license application would be based on the full safety analysis for 70,000 metric tons of heavy metal (MTHM1).
The application might seek an initial license to construct a non-radioactive pilot facility for the purpose of learning about waste emplacement, retrieval, and other operational details. Subsequently, this non-radioactive pilot could become a radioactive pilot and a demonstration facility when the license to emplace waste is obtained. The application would likely include at least some key surface facilities including buffer storage.
DOE’s initial plan was to construct the entire repository continuously while applying for the license to receive and emplace waste after a substantial part was constructed. The current plan is to adopt a “modular design” in which the surface and subsurface facilities are built as discrete segments or “panels” (DOE-OCRWM, 2002a, b). An example of the impact of Adaptive Staging on the initial application for construction authorization concerns the selection of the thermal operating mode in the repository. In an Adaptively Staged program, the final thermal operating mode for the repository might be determined after pilot and tests activities have provided preliminary in situ results.
The initial construction stage could provide data concerning repository building and testing with non-radioactive simulated waste. Emplacement mockups demonstrating the retrievability mentioned above could be included in this stage as well as the testing and demonstration of surface packaging and welding facilities.
These activities could be defined in the license application. The committee understands that the choice of transportation corridors to Yucca Mountain and the implementation of transport systems are not a direct part of repository licensing, but that DOE would be expected to plan them during this stage.
Before beginning operations, DOE must receive the USNRC license to receive and emplace waste. The license authorizes DOE to take title to high-level waste stored at generator sites, transport it, and emplace it in the repository. During the lengthy period from initial waste emplacement to repository closure, the monitoring and performance confirmation programs, initiated during site characterization, will continue. The USNRC requires waste retrievability throughout the period when wastes are being emplaced and for 50 years after emplacement. The current repository design allows the repository to remain open for up to 300 years, a period acceptable under the regulations. The issue of waste retrievability is part of the larger topic of reversibility. DOE’s current program is consistent with Adaptive Staging in that it maintains reversibility throughout the program (i.e., beyond the 50-year requirement).
As mentioned in Chapter 4, Adaptive Staging during the operational phase implies the implementation of test and pilot activities before increasing the emplacement rate to full-scale operation (Section 4.2.2).2 After the license to emplace the waste is obtained, an initial amount of waste could be emplaced in an initial panel. This facility could be heavily instrumented and would serve as a pilot facility to confirm or modify the design or operations. If the design is not changed as a result of pilot operations, the same area could also continue as a demonstration site during and after repository operations. Otherwise, a dedicated area elsewhere could be chosen to serve as a long-term demonstration of the final implementation configuration. Using this initial panel, not as a module of a fixed design but as a pilot facility, could maximize the knowledge gained in the early operational phase to affirm or improve the repository design. Examples of the types of activities and tests for the pilot stage might include:
movement of wastes from the surface to the subsurface, while ensuring all aspects of worker safety;
demonstration of emplacement and retrieval of waste packages in the presence of drip shields, using both simulated and actual radioactive waste;
analysis of worker exposure to radiation and industrial accident risk when handling, packaging, and emplacing waste using associated equipment;
analysis of barriers to develop a good safety culture;
monitoring the engineered barriers and adjacent natural systems in great detail;
installing backfill material as would be carried out in preparation for repository closure; and
A test facility should be designed to answer or resolve critical design and scientific questions. A test facility can be operated from the initial licensing phase through the operational phase for as long as open questions on system behavior need to be addressed. This period could include such aspects as testing: (1) different thermal operating modes; (2) alternative drip shield materials, designs, and construction and emplacement methods; (3) alternative backfill materials; and (4) alternative and innovative monitoring methodologies.
There are other types of learning activities beyond tests performed in an underground facility, such as: (1) assessing public, affected communities, and stakeholder (see Sidebar 5.2) attitudes; (2) testing for improved public involvement; (3) evaluating mechanisms to improve the safety culture (see Section 2.2); (4) implementing methods for incorporating input into key decisions; and (5) improving implementer’s and regulator’s involvement in learning activities.
Pilot stage activities are selected based on their importance for the safety case and the operational effectiveness of the repository system. For example, DOE’s performance assessment for the repository relies heavily on the performance of the titanium drip shield. Therefore, it is important to test this component and alternatives during the pilot stage. The committee acknowledges that pilot operations cannot provide information on the long-term behavior of the drip shield. However, the pilot-scale activities can provide operational experience or demonstrate the need for alternatives that may reduce overall cost and improve performance. Considering the mechanical complexity of emplacement and retrieval of the waste packages, drip shields, and possible backfill, DOE could plan an early demonstration, at least with mockups, of these critical steps as part of the pre-closure safety analysis.
As a part of the pilot operation or as a special test, a demonstration of retrieval should provide proof of the implementer’s capability to retrieve waste from Yucca Mountain. Such demonstration should be transparent to stakeholders, the USNRC, and other oversight groups, such as the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board3 (NWTRB).
In Adaptive Staging, several advisory and consultative processes are seen to provide direct input to the program (see Section 4.2). For example, DOE could establish a technical oversight group, independent of the federal government, that would interact with the State of Nevada to provide input into the repository program.4 There could also be a stakeholder advisory board that could ensure consultation with stakeholders and the general public at each Decision Point. These oversight groups would not overlap with the NWTRB: they would be separate entities mainly because they are involved with the State of Nevada and they would be actively involved in DOE’s decision-making process (although final responsibility rests with DOE).
Congress created NWTRB in 1987 to review DOE’s scientific and technical activities pertaining to the management and disposal of the nation’s commercial spent nuclear fuel. Board members are appointed by the President of the United States. Additional information on the NWTRB can be found on the Internet at <http://www.nwtrb.gov>.
For example, in New Mexico the Environmental Evaluation Group (EEG) is the independent technical oversight group for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. More information on the role of EEG is provided in Sidebar F.1, Appendix F.
5.1.4 Closure and post-closure
As noted previously, the U.S. program contemplates an operational phase of about 50 years and a monitoring period lasting 50 years following the operational phase (66 Federal Register 55738, November 2, 2001). Section 4.2.3 describes the impacts of Adaptive Staging on closure and post-closure phases. Given these long time frames, it is premature to speculate in detail on the specific impacts of Adaptive Staging on closure and post-closure in the U.S. program. Monitoring performed throughout the operational phase can be extended for as long as society deems necessary (pending technology), and adaptations, up to reversal, remain feasible far into the future.
Sidebar 5.2 Stakeholders in the U.S. Program
The DOE, consistent with the broad interpretation of stakeholder outlined in Chapter 3 (Sidebar 3.2), defines stakeholder to include any person or organization with an interest in, or who is affected by, the decisions of the implementer of a nuclear repository. This includes representatives from federal, state, tribal, and local agencies; members of Congress or state legislatures; unions, educational groups, environmental groups, and industrial groups; and members of the general public (DOE-OCRWM, 2002a).
This definition covers the widest range of potential participants in the decision process, thereby reducing the chances of disenfranchising any legitimate stakeholder. Included among the federal agencies in the DOE definition are the implementer and the regulators. As pointed out in Sidebar 3.2, this definition has operational disadvantages because it neglects to distinguish stakeholders who have a codified, institutional, and continuous status, such as Congress, the implementer, and the regulators, from individuals and groups whose standing is neither codified nor permanent and whose stake is more issue-specific. It also fails to distinguish active stakeholders from passive members of the general public. DOE’s definition, therefore, contains ambiguities that dilute its precision and constrain its application.
To avoid these ambiguities the committee has distinguished three categories of stakeholders: institutional stakeholders, stakeholders, and the general public. With respect to Yucca Mountain, the implementer and regulators—institutional stakeholders—are identified by their titles (i.e., as DOE, USNRC, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the State of Nevada, and local governments). The term “stakeholder,” consistent with typical usage of the term, refers to individuals, groups, and organizations that have an active interest and become engaged in the siting and management decisions in connection with the Yucca Mountain repository. The “general public” in this committee’s report is all other citizens who may have a stake in the siting and management decisions of the Yucca Mountain repository but who remain as spectators unengaged in the decision process.
5.2 Committee’s assessment of the U.S. approach to staging
DOE recognized early that there are advantages in staging a repository development program; hence its request to National Research Council to perform the present study. Some of the attributes stressed by the committee as essential for Adaptive Staging are incorporated into the U.S. program; for example, stakeholders have access to a great amount of documentation and information.5 DOE has also been introducing other characteristics of Adaptive Staging into its program, the obvious examples being the increased emphasis on a potential pilot stage (see Appendix F, Section F.1.4), development of a safety case approach (see Section 5.1.1), and demonstration of the feasibility of waste retrieval (see Section 5.1.3).
DOE has not incorporated all attributes simultaneously, and therefore its approach remains essentially Linear (see Figure 5.1 and Section F.2 in Appendix F). This linearity is illustrated by the recurring tendency to propose unrealistically tight program schedules and by the lack of transparency in some decision processes. The major milestones in Figure 5.1 are, of course, important decisions, but these are not Decision Points because these milestones correspond mainly to regulatory licensing decisions. Adaptive Staging envisions many more Decision Points than decisions to apply for licenses. For example, there may be a long period of operations between receipt of the license to receive and emplace waste and pre-closure activities. This time period would be divided into several work stages of appropriate duration—a small number of years for each—separated by Decision Points, at which DOE would then evaluate new knowledge gained from operational experience, monitoring and research, and other information. With all of this information, DOE would update the safety case, as needed, and decide how to proceed.
As mentioned in Section 2.4, Adaptive Staging does not require program “stops” at each Decision Point. A Decision Point can be conducted in parallel with program operations. Decision Points can be folded into the schedule so that, if a problem arises, it can be addressed without disrupting the entire program.
An example of Linear approach in DOE’s current program is its view that reversibility is guaranteed because Congress can direct the abandonment of the Yucca Mountain site (Williams, 2002). The committee concludes that reversibility is not an inherent attribute of the DOE program; rather, DOE considers reversibility as something externally imposed. DOE has not, to date, demonstrated a commitment to transparency in its decision-making. For example, the decisions to adopt the titanium drip shield and to select C-22 alloy for the container occurred suddenly and with little external discussion. Further examples of Linearity in DOE’s approach are in given in Appendix F.
5.3 Challenges facing the U.S. repository program
Like all national repository programs, the U.S. repository program must be implemented in a country-specific legal, institutional, and societal context. This context is shaped by several factors, including the following:
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.
5.4.1 Finalizing repository design and operational strategies for the license application
Adaptive Staging could introduce more flexibility and learning opportunities into the licensed design and operating mode (see Sections 2.1.2 and 4.2). An Adaptive Staging approach recognizes that design changes may occur during the operational phase but that a robust and safe design is needed for licensing. To allow for this flexibility it is important that the implementer and regulator discuss how design (and other) changes can be incorporated in the licensing process (see Section 5.4.2).
If the licensing process were to acknowledge the commitment to systematic learning (i.e., a search for effective opportunities for improvement throughout the repository program), later changes to the program would not come unexpectedly. For instance, DOE could justify in a transparent manner a decision to postpone the selection of the thermal operating mode until more evidence has been gathered and alternatives have been evaluated through test and pilot activities.
Introducing a pilot stage and a test facility is an example of how an Adaptive Staging approach can address the challenge of completing the design and operational details of the Yucca Mountain repository. The initial pilot and test facilities could test with non-radioactive waste various alternatives for waste configuration, waste packages, backfills, and thermal operating modes in repository management. Operational information gathered during the pilot stage with non-radioactive waste7 can be used to complete the design and can be presented in the license application to support the choice of design and operational details.
Adaptive Staging requires analysis of waste storage and underground emplacement requirements, as well as consideration of thermal operating modes as a function of shipping rates. This analysis is particularly important because the thermal and radiological properties of the various types of waste coming to Yucca Mountain (i.e., commercial spent nuclear fuel, DOE spent fuel, naval reactor fuel, and defense high-level waste) may affect repository design and stages. Generally, the radioactivity and heat load of commercial spent nuclear fuel is substantially higher than that for defense high-level waste and naval spent fuel. Spent naval fuel is less proliferation-resistant because of its highly enriched uranium content. Defense high-level waste is low in plutonium content.
Before proceeding to full-scale operations, the results of pilot operations and of ongoing tests should be thoroughly examined to determine the optimum method to develop the remainder of the repository. Although results from the pilot stage may not cause major changes in the operational plan, planning for the final design, surface and underground, should be sufficiently flexible to incorporate improvements that may become apparent in the future. Major changes in design should be subject to USNRC review. For those modifications that address issues of public concern and debate, the structured decision-making process would give DOE the opportunity to engage stakeholders in a discussion of the proposed changes. Issues requiring public debate may be identified by DOE, the technical oversight groups, or the stakeholder advisory board. Adaptive Staging also encourages examination of all options available for scheduling the emplacement of different waste types with different characteristics (commercial spent nuclear fuel, naval reactor fuel, and defense high-level waste) in the repository.
Public acceptance of defense-related waste disposal in the repository might differ from commercial spent fuel disposal. Naval fuel management also involves consideration of broader national security interests. DOE could consider whether the difference in public acceptance is an important factor, along with utilities’ concerns, in prioritizing shipment of different waste streams to the repository.
Adaptive Staging would also stress the importance of enhancing the safety culture (Section 4.8) in the repository program. The safety-culture mentality that has long been promoted in nuclear circles can also be complemented within the institution by an environmental culture that is now finding expression in official ISO standards. The ISO 14001 certification (Section 4.8) could be a vehicle for focusing the attention of DOE and its contractors on safety and environmental issues and could promote public trust by meeting a known and independently accepted standard for environmentally responsible management. ISO 14001 has been successfully implemented at DOE’s geologic disposal facility for transuranic waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. Other applications of ISO 14001 in the United States are discussed in the National Research Council report Environmental Management Systems and ISO 14001 (NRC, 1999). The goal of a safe and efficient repository can be reached only if this safety culture permeates the entire organization, including management and contractors.
5.4.2 Obtaining a license to construct the repository and to emplace waste
Licensing poses many challenges for DOE and the USNRC that could be addressed using Adaptive Staging. However, Adaptive Staging cannot be effective if it is not implemented at the beginning of the licensing process to determine, as mentioned earlier, how design (and other) changes will be handled in the licensing process. Key features of the licensing process are spelled out in statutes, regulations, guidance documents, and other USNRC position statements. DOE has lead responsibility as the implementer to make the complete safety analysis demonstrating that the repository design is conservative and effective, that the repository site is suitable, and that there is compliance with all regulatory requirements. Demonstration of compliance with the regulator’s numerical requirements does not by itself constitute a safety case as understood by the committee. For example, DOE’s assessment of repository performance beyond the 10,000-year regulatory compliance term could be addressed in the safety case even though it is not required by the USNRC. The three main challenges in the Yucca Mountain repository licensing process are (1) ensuring completeness of the application; (2) making and maintaining the safety analysis; and (3) choosing licensing stages within the current regulatory framework.
Ensuring completeness of the application. The primary responsibility for any applicant is the demonstration of safety. The underlying regulatory philosophy used by the USNRC in fulfilling its regulatory mission can be found in the USNRC Strategic Plan and is restated in the Yucca Mountain Review Plan (USNRC, 2000). It embodies the principle that the licensee is responsible for the safe operation of a nuclear facility: “the burden of proof is on the applicant or the licensee to show that the proposed action is safe, to demonstrate that regulations are met, and to ensure continued compliance with the regulations” (see Sidebar 5.3). The application must also show that the proposal fully complies with all regulatory requirements.
Sidebar 5.3 The Nuclear Regulatory Commission Licensing Review Philosophy
The following is a quotation from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Yucca Mountain Review Plan illustrating the licensing review philosophy:
“The following three principles are important in implementing the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulatory mission:
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s regulatory role in any licensing action is to apply the applicable regulations and guidance, and to review applications for proposed actions to determine if compliance with regulations has been achieved. The burden of proof is on the applicant or licensee to show that the proposed action is safe, to demonstrate that regulations are met, and to ensure continued compliance with the regulations” (USNRC, 2002; Section 1.1.1).
The current DOE target date for submittal of the license application is December 2004. The challenge is for DOE to address within this time period those key technical issues needed to submit a complete license application and to plan for filling remaining knowledge gaps. If Adaptive Staging is implemented, it is important for DOE to formalize a process to incorporate new data and information that may be learned during preparation of the license application and throughout the licensing process. This learning process relies on continuation of on-site testing and pilot activities and off-site testing with non-radioactive simulated waste.
Making and maintaining the safety analyses. The USNRC requires DOE to submit two safety analyses, one for pre-closure safety and the other for post-closure safety. The principles of Adaptive Staging encourage DOE to iterate its safety analyses, and these iterations do not stop with submission of the first license application. New knowledge may, in principle, weaken or strengthen the safety analysis. Knowledge that weakens the safety case may be dealt with in Adaptive Staging by program modifications that can enhance safety. Adaptive Staging implies that DOE takes the lead in developing each aspect of the safety case, not simply providing whatever is required by the regulator. For example, although Section 4.1.2 of the USNRC’s Yucca Mountain Review Plan does not specifically require a physical demonstration of retrieval and alternative storage under Adaptive Staging, doing so would be expected to yield knowledge and experience to ensure reversibility.
Choosing licensing stages within the current regulatory framework. The current licensing schedule extends sufficiently far into the future to permit the incorporation of Adaptive Staging into DOE’s approach. Under current schedules, the first application for construction authorization will not be submitted until December 2004, and the USNRC review and licensing process is expected to take the full time permitted by the NWPA (Section 114[d]). Hence, construction activities at the site are not expected to begin for at least five years. This period is crucial for the development of Adaptive Staging in the Yucca Mountain Project. During this period, DOE could generate new knowledge to address key uncertainties through on-site activities and the long-term science and technology program. DOE could also reflect on possible licensing mechanisms, for instance through substages or conditions of the licenses, to modify the reference design, repository operations, or the performance confirmation program.
As the USNRC points out in 10 CFR Part 63, the knowledge available at the time of construction authorization will be less than at the subsequent stages:
“Part 63 provides for a multi-staged licensing process that affords the Commission the flexibility to make decisions in a logical time sequence that accounts for DOE collecting and analyzing additional information over the construction and operational phases of the repository. […] The time required to complete the stages of this process [the four major licensing decisions] (e.g., 50 years for operations and 50 years for monitoring) is extensive and will allow for generation of additional information” (66 Federal Register 55738, November 2, 2001).
Nevertheless, ensuring the compatibility of Adaptive Staging with the licensing procedures already specified by the USNRC is crucial. Compatibility entails moving from the general recognition of flexibility cited above to the development of a detailed plan for the licensing process that allows Adaptive Staging. The Adaptive Staging plan in the initial application would explicitly address those changes in design, tests, and experiments that it would plan to make or conduct without obtaining an amendment of construction authorization under 10 CFR Part 63.33. Part 63.44(b)(1) sets out specific criteria for such changes, tests, and experiments.
The construction application is the first formal opportunity for the USNRC to review and adjudicate the repository at this site. The USNRC is not expected to consider reversal of this decision once made unless new information is developed that warrants reconsideration. In the regulation there are many requirements to update the analysis when applications for amendments are submitted, as well .as a requirement in 10 CFR Part 63.44(c)(2) to report every 2 years on changes, tests, and experiments that were made or conducted without amendment. These updates could provide information for use at Decision Points.
The committee offers the following as an example of how the detailed plans for Adaptive Staging could be woven into the licensing stages. DOE would proceed in the next 2 years to complete its safety analysis to support the license application. In its application, DOE would provide details of a baseline design for the full repository that are sufficient to warrant issuance of the initial construction authorization. The application would include conditions that would limit construction to a section of the repository large enough to conduct cold and hot thermal mode testing. The application would request this limited construction based on confidence in the adequacy of the safety case or safety analysis for the proposed full repository, but would not yet request approval to proceed with construction of the full repository.
The application would spell out the procedures DOE would follow for making changes, tests, and experiments without advance approval by the USNRC as well as those changes that DOE would seek only by application for amendment. In parallel with the first construction application, DOE would plan for stages within the reference framework and conduct work in continuation of site characterization tests and separate off-site work. Their purpose would be to evaluate alternatives to the baseline design, such as better understanding of the site’s local hydrology and monitoring needs; different thermal density limits for repository waste loading; different designs and materials for the drip shields; possible internal filler materials for the spent fuel waste packages to enhance their retention of key isotopes when corrosion finally penetrates the canister;8 and alternatives to the designs for receipt of waste, buffer storage, handling, packaging, and emplacement that could enhance safety or reduce cost without a safety detriment. The information obtained from this work would enter into the current licensing process only if it revealed something significantly adverse to the current application. This parallel work would be transparent, inviting review and comment from all stakeholders and technical oversight groups.
Assuming that this first application for construction authorization is granted, DOE would evaluate the learning from the licensing process and the parallel work as it begins construction of the initial portion of the repository. In this example DOE would construct only that portion of the repository useful for pilot testing,
concentrating on developing a good safety culture for industrial safety and control of worker radiation exposures. The application would clarify the purpose of the pilot testing proposed, and DOE would conduct cold testing to confirm the adequacy of the constructed design, or identify changes that are warranted with respect to waste handling, packaging, emplacement, and recovery. Minimal cold pilot testing would be needed for facilities constructed for receipt and storage of waste, since such facilities are in widespread, licensed use in the United States.
As soon as sufficient knowledge has been obtained from pilot testing and parallel technical work, DOE would make appropriate changes to the reference design and safety analysis. It would then prepare an application to the USNRC for a license to receive and emplace waste. That license application would contain a condition that waste would be received in larger quantities but packaged and emplaced only in pilot testing. Despite this condition, the application would be justified by an adequate safety analysis for completion of construction and waste emplacement following the revised design for the full repository. Further construction of the repository beyond the pilot stage would be sought by amendment pending analysis of the hot pilot testing and parallel activities. Once this license is granted, DOE would proceed with waste receipt sufficient for hot pilot testing, but DOE might also begin receiving larger amounts of waste into buffer storage at the site if the license application included that proposal.
After conducting pilot testing, DOE would enter a stage of re-evaluation of all knowledge gained from parallel on-site and off-site work to select the design and operating techniques for constructing the remainder of the repository and for conducting full-scale operations. The appropriate license application(s) would be prepared and submitted. The staging plan laid out in the initial construction application might also include preliminary information on the subsequent application for the first license to receive and emplace waste. Because of the mechanics of the USNRC licensing process and subsequent construction and test activities, this application is not likely to be filed until four or five years after the initial application, perhaps by 2009. The experience gained in previous stages may be incorporated into the experience gained during construction.
Some potential difficulties with implementing Adaptive Staging are related to the procedures of the USNRC licensing hearings. For the licensing actions-construction authorization and license to possess and emplace waste, and amendments—the USNRC is expected to use a formal hearing process before an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board to litigate and adjudicate the soundness of the license application. The litigation process has the effect of freezing, during the USNRC licensing review, the repository design and its safety analysis, as well as the filing of contentions by any parties that have been granted standing to intervene. This design freeze can inhibit Adaptive Staging by delaying design adaptations while the hearing process proceeds. If new information adverse to safety becomes available during licensing process, DOE would have to introduce new information and basis for revision into the proceedings. Therefore, before implementing Adaptive Staging, it is important that DOE and the USNRC consider the consequences of Adaptive Staging on the licensing hearing process.
In summary, by implementing Adaptive Staging, DOE could possibly achieve earlier resolution of key licensing issues. Early planning is necessary for Adaptive Staging to be as effective as possible in addressing the licensing challenges.
5.4.3 Planning for interim or buffer storage requirements
Challenges facing DOE with respect to surface storage of high-level waste and spent fuel are:
planning for sufficient buffer storage to provide the required flexibility for repository operations;
working with utilities, regulators, and legislators to establish feasible acceptance schedules; and
choosing and implementing appropriate storage technologies.
Once the license to receive and possess waste is obtained, the rate of emplacement and the thermal operating mode can be varied more flexibly if there is sufficient on-site buffer storage (i.e., storage of waste received from off-site pending receipt inspection, repackaging, and preparing for emplacement).
Adaptive Staging may require a larger buffer storage capacity at or near the site, unlike a Linear Staging approach that is based on “just in time” waste deliveries. There appears to be a rationale for DOE to propose Adaptive Staging with a large buffer storage at or near Yucca Mountain. The NWPA (Section 114[d]) directed that the capacity of Yucca Mountain, if licensed, should be limited by the USNRC to no more than 70,000 MTHM until a second repository is in operation. That restriction defines the 70,000-MTHM limit to include any monitored retrievable storage facility within 50 miles of the repository.9 Therefore, the 70,000 MTHM limit for Yucca Mountain includes not only all waste emplaced in the repository, but also all waste received for buffer storage at or near the site while awaiting packaging and emplacement. Under the terms of the first license to receive high-level waste, buffer storage of waste as shipped, or in wet or dry storage at the surface, could be legally acceptable at Yucca Mountain so long as it remains within the 70,000-MTHM limit.
One of the challenges for DOE is to begin waste shipment as soon as practical and at rates adequate to remove pressure from the utility sites. The first shipments could be sent to the buffer storage at the site as soon as the repository receives the first license to receive and emplace waste. The shipment rates could be higher than those currently planned, even if the authorized quantity of waste for packaging and emplacement is limited by a potential licensing condition.
One of the challenges in managing buffer storage requirements is the policy implication of receiving a license for a slow rate of emplacement but engaging in a high rate of acceptance into buffer storage. If DOE decides to receive a very large fraction of the 70,000 MTHM into buffer storage once the license is received, while only emplacing a few hundred MTHM, it could appear to be establishing monitored, retrievable storage at the surface. While Adaptive Staging cannot guarantee that this perception will be avoided, DOE can transparently justify in situ buffer storage because of the slower emplacement rates introduced by Adaptive Staging while repository construction continues. Adaptive Staging would offer stakeholders and technical oversight groups the opportunity to be involved in the development of the buffer storage program, for instance, by providing input on the volume of waste on the surface, the receipt rate, and underground emplacement rate. The added
transparency could help forestall the perception that DOE is setting up monitored retrievable storage at the surface.
A further issue relevant to the buffer storage at Yucca Mountain is that of recent concerns over terrorist activities. Security concerns might result in pressure to move the waste underground as quickly as possible, rather than at a rate determined by the need to gain experience in repository operations. The counter-arguments to these points are that security would, in any case, be as good as, or better than, at many distributed surface stores and that additional special “hardening” measures could be taken at Yucca Mountain, if necessary.
5.4.4 Constructing the repository and beginning operations consistent with current schedule and the budget
In common with many other repository programs, the U.S. program has experienced an escalation in cost estimates and schedule slippage. The challenges to DOE following this experience are:
producing and keeping to a credible program schedule allowing for changes and for stakeholder interactions, which are an integral part of repository implementation;
setting transparent, well-justified goals, principles, and practices to help stakeholders understand reasons for possible deviations;
documenting and justifying the budgets for each activity and for the overall program to assure auditability; and
completing any activity undertaken on or ahead of schedule to avoid cost increases.
If Adaptive Staging is employed, an effective and efficient repository development program integrates all elements of the waste management program into a cohesive unit. Careful, iterative system analysis of options must be used to balance competing considerations such as costs, schedules, emplacement rates, and other institutional and societal considerations.
Current cost estimates total approximately $60 billion (in year 2000 dollars) for the Yucca Mountain project until the site is released from all controls. Cost estimates have already increased by 26 percent since 1998 (DOE-OCRWM, 2001 a). The schedule has slipped from 1998 to 2010 for the first waste shipment to Yucca Mountain. A major challenge for DOE is to maintain the current schedule. DOE estimates that every year of delay will cost $35 million (DOE-OCRWM, 2002b). A further problem for DOE is that the budget is approved each year by Congress and may fluctuate unpredictably, depending on several factors (e.g., politics, economics, year’s events) that are outside of DOE’s control. The schedule can also be affected by lawsuits from the states, the public, and utility companies. These lawsuits can be lengthy and distract DOE from its programmatic activities.
Adaptive Staging could help address these challenges through an incremental buildup to full-scale operations. Costs would increase more slowly than if the underground and surface facilities were built progressively as waste is received and experience is gathered. An incremental buildup may lead to higher integrated early costs, but it could actually accelerate the schedule and reduce costs in the long-
term because the slow buildup may allow problems to be identified and corrected before they become expensive or time consuming. This cost-reduction potential is present because Adaptive Staging attributes and Decision Points (Sections 2.2 and 2.3) are designed to make large-scale, costly mistakes less likely than if Linear Staging were used. A pilot stage could be used to correct for reduced-scale mistakes and to learn from them. The attribute of systematic learning with its final goals of improving the safety of the repository and optimizing operations may also lead to a more cost-effective repository. The learning process would explicitly include safety as well as cost optimization.
Linear Staging could be the cheapest and fastest way to achieve a goal when everything goes as planned. It is more realistic to assume that unexpected results will occur, and there are many examples in DOE’s history and elsewhere to demonstrate this likelihood.
5.4.5 Designing and implementing the transportation plan
The prime challenges facing DOE in transportation are:
choosing modes of transport and transport routes;
interacting with the numerous states and affected communities;
demonstrating convincingly the safety of transport; and
implementing a complete, reliable national waste transportation system.
With congressional approval of Yucca Mountain as the repository site, transportation of spent fuel and high-level waste to the repository has become one of the more contentious issues facing the program. A multitude of stakeholders and states will be affected and concerned as a final transportation plan is formulated and adopted. While many of the aspects of transportation are governed by existing regulations and commitments, many important issues remain to be resolved. Among these are the mix of transport modes (i.e., train, truck, or both), routing, and interactions with state agencies on such issues as notification, security and emergency response training, and frequency of shipments through affected jurisdictions. The transport strategy may also be affected by waste-specific issues, such as the type and characteristics of waste to be delivered to the site (e.g., to optimize the thermal loading) and by the location of facilities for conditioning and packaging the waste.
DOE could use Adaptive Staging to help address these transportation challenges. For example, once buffer storage capacity is available at the site, a pilot transportation plan could be implemented to test its viability. As one option, transporting small amounts of waste (e.g., for the pilot stage) would allow the logistics and routing of truck or rail transport to be evaluated before committing to a final approach. Initial shipping and buffer storage at or near the site can be conducted using techniques and equipment that are already certified by the USNRC (10 CFR Parts 71 and 72). The currently designed truck casks carry only 1 to 2 MTHM of spent fuel; currently certified rail casks carry 10 to 20 MTHM of spent fuel. Another option is for DOE to make an early start on a higher rate transportation program by going directly to rail shipment.
Adaptive Staging principles offer a framework for the numerous and contentious negotiations with the affected communities in developing the transportation plan (Section 4.4). The pilot stage offers an opportunity to engage parties affected by shipments of waste and to gather their input about preferred transportation alternatives within the bounds of regulation and acceptable cost. For example, exercises with state emergency response teams could identify issues needing attention before full-scale shipment commences. Additionally, stakeholder participation in the transportation plan may also help uncover and address unrecognized issues before obtaining the license to ship waste. In the end, such negotiation could result in more acceptable routing, thus enhancing public acceptance and improving credibility for DOE.
5.4.6 Working to maintain and demonstrate scientific and institutional credibility
The safety of any geologic repository is evaluated on the basis of numerous complex scientific studies. One of the conditions, necessary but not sufficient, for enhancing public acceptance of the repository is to have a credible, thorough, and well-communicated scientific program. Based on the information gathered by the committee, there appears to be a perception that some parts of the Yucca Mountain scientific program could be improved. For example, the NWTRB stated, “when the DOE’s technical and scientific work is taken as a whole, the Board’s view is that the technical basis for the DOE’s repository performance estimates is weak to moderate at this time” (NWTRB, 2002). An international peer-review group was of the opinion that in DOE “relatively little emphasis is placed on the important issue of presenting an understanding of system behaviour” (NEA, 2002). The Advisory Committee on Nuclear Waste10 (ACNW) also stated that “the supporting evidence for many assumptions [in DOE’s performance assessment] is often obscure. Our position is that the contribution to risk from coupled processes should be quantified and made transparent” (ACNW, 2002).
DOE’s scientific program has been criticized primarily with respect to:
the completeness of the scientific investigations;
whether there is sufficient investigation of data that do not match current theory;
whether alternative interpretations of the data could lead to other also credible theories and explanations that might show less confidence in performance;
the level of confidence attached to the conduct of total system performance assessment (TSPA); and
limits in the effectiveness of the program to describe and communicate its scientific and analytical evidence and rationale in an understandable, accessible, and compelling fashion.
Adaptive Staging highlights attributes of a repository program that could improve perception of DOE’s scientific credibility:
Transparency, or openness, of documentation for decision-making and availability of research data and results in technical and non-technical media for review by peers and the public. This transparency would clarify and document the scientific rationale underlying decisions on technical issues.
Auditability, or publication of scientific results in peer-reviewed literature and increased reliance on external scientific panels to review scientific progress and data interpretation. Science supporting the performance assessment and the performance assessment methodology itself would be peer reviewed before it is used in a license application.
Stakeholder involvement, or making scientific data available to stakeholders (see Sidebar 5.2) and outsiders. Involving interested parties promotes openness and could lead to wider acceptance of the program.11
Integrity, e.g., funding and support to create an independent technical oversight group. This oversight group could help assure that scientific objectivity and neutrality are maintained.
Responsiveness, or systematic and continued learning through a science program that provides feedback to the decision-making process in a timely manner. Responsiveness also implies that the science program is open to new questions and paths of inquiry, based on peer review.
Flexibility, or incorporating new knowledge and scientific understanding to enhance safety as a management priority. Alternatives are always open for examination and options can nevertheless be chosen even in the face of uncertainties, provided management maintains reversibility as an option.
Commitment to systematic learning, or encouraging and supporting scientific curiosity. Scientific curiosity drives the learning process and permits new hypotheses to be developed and tested. Learning would be focused on reducing uncertainty in key areas and on distinguishing unexpected and new findings that require management response and adaptation from findings that would not impact the current program strategy. Adaptive Staging also implies openness and involvement with international communities.
An independent long-term science and technology program, which DOE is currently putting into place in parallel with its science program to support the license application, is consistent with Adaptive Staging12 This long-term science and technology program may enhance DOE’s scientific credibility, yet its goals may be farther-reaching and more specific. The long-term science program could be the basis for providing data, or the program could be focused on fundamental research on key issues aimed to reduce uncertainties that affect safety. Finally, such a program would not be diverted by short-term problems.
Technical research could be directed to such goals as materials development, testing of engineered barriers, and verification of performance assessment. If the science program is allowed to challenge operational procedures, and to subject its findings to peer review, the potential exists for confidence in DOE to increase and for additional scientific credibility to accrue. In addition, Adaptive Staging is
consistent with quality assurance guidelines, ISO standards, and peer-review methods that improve the traceability, transparency, and confidence in scientific results.
Scientific credibility can also be increased by establishing a technical oversight group and a stakeholder advisory board. The State of Nevada, for example, could provide important input on the structure, scope, and reporting relationships of this group. DOE could benefit in societal and programmatic ways by formally incorporating local affected stakeholders into a long-term data acquisition and monitoring program.13
The long-term science and technology program would also include a social science component addressing methods to monitor and include stakeholder and public input for key decisions when moving from one stage to another.
It must also be acknowledged that improving DOE’s openness is a challenging task that will require investment of additional effort with or without the implementation of Adaptive Staging. For example:
Designing a transparent and auditable long-term science program requires skills and experience of DOE program management that may differ from those most emphasized in the past.
Publishing in scientific journals and other peer-reviewed activities take time and effort.
Publishing in scientific journals as a criterion for evaluation of success at program milestones requires management involvement and encouragement.
Documenting the scientific basis for decisions is time consuming.
Providing public access to data might raise questions and claims lacking scientific bases that must be resolved; this process, too, may be time consuming and may also conflict with confidentiality issues.
Researching, monitoring, and responding to stakeholder and public perceptions can also be time consuming.
Credibility-building actions take time and cost money, which must be factored in the reference framework planning. But in the long term they could enhance safety and public confidence in the repository.
5.4.7 Working to maintain effective working relationships with the nuclear power utility companies
The challenges facing DOE in its interactions with the utilities, the principal generators of most of the waste for disposal, include:
providing an acceptably safe repository for commercial spent fuel,
keeping costs to justifiable levels,
accepting spent fuel as soon as possible, and
avoiding the need for construction of unnecessary intermediate storage facilities at nuclear plants or in central locations.
Can the adoption of Adaptive Staging help DOE meet these challenges? When this committee began work on this study, the DOE baseline strategy employed Linear Staging on an ambitious schedule, seeking construction authorization for the entire repository, a license to receive and emplace waste as soon as a sufficient part of the repository was constructed, and receipt of the waste afterward at the maximum practical rate. A prime objective of this strategy was to enable DOE to accept spent fuel from the utilities as soon as is practical.
DOE is currently in litigation with the utilities for failing to begin removal of commercial spent nuclear fuel from the reactor sites by 1998, the deadline set by the contracts entered into under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. DOE is striving to maintain a schedule that will lead to the first receipt of waste at Yucca Mountain by 2010. Therefore, DOE has limited time14 to apply for and obtain a license to receive and emplace waste. One of DOE’s top priorities is to begin shipment of spent fuel to Yucca Mountain by 2010, rather than have a full system, including all surface facilities, implemented at that date.
Development of a licensed pilot facility and sufficient on-site buffer storage could help DOE meet the 2010 deadline for shipping waste from generator sites. By decoupling waste shipments from underground emplacement, shipments could begin sooner. Adaptive Staging would not delay the receipt of a license to receive and emplace waste, but it would likely lower the initial rate at which waste could be packaged and emplaced in the repository. Attempting to develop and freeze a final packaging and emplacement design could delay construction of the full-scale surface and subsurface facilities for packaging and emplacement.
The development of the buffer facility could itself be managed with an Adaptively Staged approach, nested in the bigger Adaptive Staging of the entire repository system, thereby increasing opportunities for involvement with stakeholders and utility companies, which may result in increased confidence and better and more cost-effective repository operations.
5.4.8 Improving working relationships with stakeholders and the general public
The challenges that DOE faces in this area are:
enhancing the credibility of DOE as an institution,
establishing and maintaining nationwide credibility for the high-level waste disposal program, and
interacting directly with stakeholders in the local communities and in the State of Nevada.
DOE has long experienced a hostile attitude from some stakeholders in Nevada and from parts of the general public because of the Yucca Mountain Project. Stakeholders and members of the public from the State of Nevada have so far
engaged in limited effective discussions with DOE on the design and operations of the repository. There are two problems associated with public involvement in the Yucca Mountain project: (1) there is no state organization collaborating with DOE on the Yucca Mountain Project and (2) the state has shown reluctance to cooperate on planning and oversight activities for the Yucca Mountain Project. One possible reason for the lack of constructive cooperation between DOE and the State of Nevada is that the final decision to concentrate the U.S. effort at Yucca Mountain is perceived by some as a purely political decision, with little direct input from the public (although strongly supported by its representatives, except for Nevada’s, in Congress) and with too little independent technical input.15 Although all states proposed as initial candidate sites were opposed to the repository siting effort (see Appendix F, Section F.1.2), it has been argued that Nevada’s intransigence with the federal government is due particularly to broken agreements and trust-decreasing actions since the beginning of the U.S. nuclear program (Makhijani and Saleska, 1999). However, even though the State of Nevada has refused to engage with DOE, the communities in Nye County, where Yucca Mountain is situated, are collaborating productively with DOE (Nye County, 2002).
Establishment of a stakeholder advisory board could also enhance participation and provide opportunities for DOE to demonstrate that it has completed specific actions in the agreed manner. One of the main functions within the scopes of the stakeholder advisory board is allowing effective communication between DOE and stakeholders. In presentations to the committee, some stakeholders said that DOE had not yet offered them true participation, only one-way communication. Through such an advisory board, stakeholders would be given the opportunity to comment on operational details such as the transportation routes, emergency response preparedness, protection of workers and the public, and other repository operations. The establishment of an independent technical oversight group could also be a great benefit in this matter.
With increased opportunities to influence the repository program, residents of Nevada and of the most affected counties may be more willing to participate on an advisory board. The committee recognizes that DOE has expressed its willingness to support local oversight and advisory groups and that implementation requires a breakthrough in its dispute with the State of Nevada.