United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Branch Technical Position on the Use of Expert Elicitation in the High-Level Radioactive Waste Program (NUREG-1563)

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Publication Information

Manuscript Completed: August 1996
Date Published:
November 1996

Prepared by:
J.P. Kotra*, M.P. Lee*, N.A. Eisenberg*
A.R. DeWispelare**

**Center for Nuclear Waste Regulatory Analyses
San Antonio, TX 78228-0510

*Division of Waste Management
Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001

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Abstract

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is conducting a program of site characterization to gather enough information, about the Yucca Mountain (Nevada) site, to be able to evaluate the waste isolation capabilities of a potential geologic repository. Should the site be found suitable, DOE will apply to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for permission to construct and then operate a proposed geologic repository for the disposal of spent nuclear fuel and other high-level radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain. In deciding whether to grant or deny DOE's license application for a geologic repository, NRC will closely examine the facts and expert judgment set forth in any potential DOE license application. NRC expects that subjective judgments of individual experts and, in some cases, groups of experts, will be used by DOE to interpret data obtained during site characterization and to address the many technical issues and inherent uncertainties associated with predicting the performance of a repository system for thousands of years. NRC has traditionally accepted, for review, expert judgment to evaluate and interpret the factual bases of license applications and is expected to give appropriate consideration to the judgments of DOE's experts regarding the geologic repository. Such consideration, however, envisions DOE using expert judgments to complement and supplement other sources of scientific and technical information, such as data collection, analyses, and experimentation. In this document, the NRC staff has set forth technical positions that: (1) provide general guidelines on those circumstances that may warrant the use of a formal process for obtaining the judgments of more than one expert (i.e., expert elicitation); and (2) describe acceptable procedures for conducting expert elicitation when formally elicited judgments are used to support a demonstration of compliance with NRC's geologic disposal regulation, currently set forth in 10 CFR Part 60.

In this NUREG, the staff also provides an expanded definition of "peer review" over that provided earlier in NUREG-1297.

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