Review of DOE's Site Recommendation Process

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What was the NRC's role?

  • The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 required the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to provide preliminary comments on certain information in any site recommendation developed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
  • The NRC's comments were "preliminary," and addressed the extent to which the DOE information seemed to be sufficient for inclusion in any potential license application.
  • The NRC commented on the sufficiency of the at-depth site characterization analysis, the waste form and packaging proposal and, what, if any, additional DOE data or analyses are needed.
  • DOE included the NRC's preliminary comments as part of its site recommendation submittal to the President and Congress.
  • The NRC will perform a detailed review of any license applications DOE may submit, including the application for construction authorization that DOE submitted on June 3, 2008.

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How were the NRC's comments used?

On July 3, 2001, DOE asked that NRC provide its preliminary sufficiency comments by November 1, 2001. The NRC staff conducted numerous meetings with DOE, focused on the resolution of key technical issues.

In preparing its comments, the NRC focused on the sufficiency of DOE's at-depth site characterization analysis, the waste form and packaging proposal, and what, if any, additional DOE data or analyses were needed. The NRC's resultant preliminary comments provided an independent indication to the President and Congress as to whether the DOE has acquired, developed, and assembled sufficient information for a license application.

What did DOE's site recommendation include?

In February 2002, the Secretary of Energy submitted to the President of the United States a site recommendation report that consisted of the following seven sections:

  1. A description of the proposed repository
  2. A description of the waste form, waste package, and their interaction with the geologic system
  3. A discussion of safety-related site characterization data
  4. A final environmental impact statement
  5. Preliminary comments of the NRC on whether the extent of at-depth site characterization and the description of the waste form proposal are sufficient for inclusion in a potential license application
  6. Views of the Governor and legislature of any State, or the governing body of any affected Indian tribe, and the response of the Secretary of Energy to those views
  7. Any impact report submitted under the Act by the State of Nevada

On February 15, 2002, the President notified Congress that he considers Yucca Mountain qualified for a construction permit application. Congress approved the recommendation. This approval opened the door for DOE to prepare a license application seeking NRC authorization to construct a repository at Yucca Mountain.

Public Involvement

An agreement between DOE and NRC governed the interactions between the two agencies during the pre-licensing phase, and discussed the extent of public involvement permitted in the issue resolution meetings. See the High-Level Waste Disposal Meeting Archive page for meeting summaries and agreements.

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Monday, June 08, 2020