United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Safety Review of DOE's Yucca Mountain Application

If the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) accepts the license application for the Yucca Mountain geologic repository, as it was submitted by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the agency will begin a detailed safety review. During this stage, an experienced and highly qualified team of NRC staff and contractors will examine DOE's license application, and evaluate whether the proposed repository is safe and will protect the public and the environment. For more detail, see the following topics on this page:

The NRC's Independent Expertise

The NRC staff is well qualified and prepared to conduct a detailed, independent safety review of the application. At NRC, the staff of the Division of High-Level Waste Repository Safety, from the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, will be responsible for conducting NRC's responsibilities of the review. The NRC staff is supported in this effort by its contractor, the Center for Nuclear Waste Regulatory Analyses (CNWRA). The CNWRA is located at the Southwest Research Institute, in San Antonio, Texas.
The NRC and CNWRA employ experts and specialists in the scientific and engineering disciplines needed to understand and evaluate the design, performance, and operations of a deep geologic repository. The staff at NRC and CNWRA includes:

  • Geochemists, Hydrologists, and Climatologists
  • Chemical, Mechanical, Nuclear, Mining, Materials, and Geological Engineers
  • Structural Geologists and Volcanologists
  • Health Physicists
  • Inspectors and Quality Assurance Engineers

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Scope of the NRC's Safety Review

The goal of the NRC staff's safety review is to determine if the design, performance, and operation of the proposed repository, as described in DOE's license application, complies with all applicable NRC regulations. The regulations that govern the disposal of high-level radioactive waste in the proposed geologic repository at Yucca Mountain are contained in Part 63 of Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) (also known as 10 CFR Part 63, or simply Part 63).

To assist the NRC staff in its review of DOE's license application for a geologic repository, the NRC prepared a guidance document, called the Yucca Mountain Review Plan (YMRP). The principal purpose of the Yucca Mountain Review Plan is to ensure the quality, uniformity, and consistency of NRC staff reviews of the license application, and to provide examples of acceptable methods for demonstrating compliance with the regulations. The YMRP is not a regulation and does not impose regulatory requirements.

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Requests for Additional Information

If the NRC staff finds it necessary, it can request additional information from DOE. The purpose of these requests, called Requests for Additional Information (RAI), is to obtain all the information that NRC staff deems necessary to complete or resolve any safety issues, but has not been included in DOE's license application.

The NRC staff also has the ability, resources, and expertise to conduct its own independent analyses of specific technical issues under review, as needed.

NRC/DOE public phone calls/meetings, related to Requests for Additional Information (RAIs), are scheduled ad-hoc and held periodically, but always with at least three days notice. For more information about dates and times, please contact Lola Gomez by e-mailing her at lola.gomez@nrc.gov.

Safety Evaluation Report

Once NRC completes its safety review, it will document its results in a publicly available Safety Evaluation Report (SER). The SER will provide a thorough discussion of the information provided by DOE in the application, the scope of NRC staff's review, its analysis of this information, and its findings and conclusions.


The NRC staff expects to complete its detailed safety review and publish the results of its review in its SER approximately 18 months after docketing the application (currently estimated as March 2010).

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Monday, November 18, 2013