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Technical Advancements and Issues Associated With The Permanent Disposal Of High-Activity Wastes: Lessons Learned from Yucca Mountain and Other Programs

The U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board was created by Congress in 1987 to evaluate the technical and scientific validity of U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) work related to implementing the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. The Board’s major focus for the last 20 years has been on DOE’s efforts to develop a deep geologic repository for high-activity waste† at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. As this report is being written, the Administration has eliminated DOE’s Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management and is seeking to withdraw the license application it submitted to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to construct a repository at Yucca Mountain. An important part of the Board’s mission is advising Congress and the Secretary of Energy on technical issues related to management and disposal of high-activity waste. Therefore, regardless of the outcome of deliberations over Yucca Mountain, the Board believes that it is important to extract knowledge while it is still available from the experience of the Yucca Mountain program and other programs. Such knowledge may be useful for future U.S. high activity waste management and disposal efforts. This report is not meant to be an assessment of the licenseability of a Yucca Mountain repository. If licensing goes forward, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will determine whether a license should be granted. But, as President Harry S Truman astutely observed, “…there is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.” The purpose of this report, then, is to extract from the history of the Yucca Mountain program, and to a lesser degree from other programs, some of the technical “lessons learned” that may apply to future U.S. programs for waste management and waste disposal.
World Nuclear Organization
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Jarod Wilson
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