Copyright 2000 Federal News Service, Inc.
Federal News Service
April 11, 2000, Tuesday
SECTION: PREPARED TESTIMONY
LENGTH: 7776 words
PREPARED STATEMENT OF IVAN ITKIN DIRECTOR OFFICE OF CIVILIAN RADIOACTIVE WASTE
MANAGEMENT U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE ENERGY AND WATER DEVELOPMENT
SUBJECT - FY 2001 APPROPRIATIONS HEARING
Mr. Chairman and members of the
Committee, I am Ivan Itkin, Director of the Department of Energy's Office of
Civilian Radioactive Waste Management. I appreciate the opportunity to present
our Fiscal Year (FY) 2001 budget request to you and to discuss our plans for the
scientific and technical activities at the Yucca Mountain site
Our FY 2001 budget request of $437.5 million
is devoted to advancing our nation's policy for the long-term management of
spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. This request provides for
the near- term completion of scientific and engineering work that will be the
foundation for a Presidential site recommendation on whether or not to proceed
with a permanent geologic repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.
We are nearing this Presidential decision, which should occur in FY 2001. A
recommendation of such national importance must be based on sound science. It
must not only be accompanied by the documentation required by law, but must also
inform our policy makers, our oversight agencies, and the public regarding the
scientific basis for the decision. BACKGROUND
The Civilian Radioactive
Waste Management Program, particularly the ongoing scientific and technical work
at Yucca Mountain, is the cornerstone of our national policy
for the management of nuclear waste. Permanent geologic disposal not only
addresses our management of spent nuclear fuel from commercial electric power
generation, but it is essential to advancing our non-proliferation goals. A
permanent disposal solution will secure highly enriched spent nuclear fuel from
foreign research reactors. It will also provide for the disposition of surplus
plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons. In order to continue the operation of
our nuclear-powered naval vessels, a permanent geologic repository is necessary
for the disposition of spent nuclear fuel from our naval reactor program.
Finally, a permanent geologic repository is vital for cleaning up the legacy of
our past nuclear weapons production at sites throughout the country.
Over the past few years, the Department has made significant progress
toward a recommendation decision on a permanent solution for spent nuclear fuel
and high-level radioactive waste. Construction of the Exploratory Studies
Facility has afforded us almost five years of direct examination of the geology
underneath Yucca Mountain. From this study, our scientists and
engineers, including world experts from our nation's universities and from our
national laboratories, have advanced our understanding of a potential repository
system. This understanding has led us to further focus our investigations,
responding in part to the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board and other
This year, we will complete niches and alcoves in the
cross-drift tunnel that will assist us in developing a more complete three-
dimensional model of the geologic formation that might house a repository. For
nearly two years, we have gathered and integrated data input from the
cross-drift tunnel into our performance models to refine our predictions of
repository performance. We continue to conduct the largest thermal test of a
geologic formation in the world. This test, commonly known as the drift-scale
test, assesses how long- term exposures to heat from waste packages might affect
the hydrology and near-field environment within tunnels that may be constructed
within Yucca Mountain. This work will help determine the
effects of heat on waste package performance and assist in the further
refinement of repository designs that must be accomplished as we move toward
potentially licensing a repository, if the site is recommended for development.
Since the enactment of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act in 1982, our nation
has made a substantial investment in permanent geologic disposal. Over
$4 billion has been committed to the scientific and technical
work at Yucca Mountain. After almost 18 years of cutting- edge
science and engineering, we are very close to making a recommendation regarding
the suitability of this site for further development as a repository.
SUMMARY OF FY 2001 APPROPRIATIONS REQUEST
The FY 2001 budget
request is $437.5 million for the Office of Civilian
Radioactive Waste Management. This request includes a funding level of
$325.5 million from the Nuclear Waste Fund appropriation, and
$112 million from the Defense Nuclear Waste appropriation.
The FY 2001 budget request of $437.5 million is devoted
principally to the activities that are most important to support a determination
of whether the Yucca Mountain site is suitable and should be
recommended for further development as a permanent geologic repository. A
Secretarial decision on whether or not to recommend the site to the President is
expected to occur in FY 2001. As required by Section 114 of the Nuclear Waste
Policy Act, a recommendation by the Secretary to the President will be
accompanied by documentation that provides a comprehensive basis for that
The FY 2001 budget request is 25 percent greater than
our FY 2000 funding level of $351.2 million. This increase
reflects the program's effort to address the remaining work that is necessary
for a site recommendation. This remaining work was described in substantial
detail in the December 1998 Viability Assessment. The FY 2001 request is also
necessary to achieve to the work schedule published in the Viability Assessment.
Regaining momentum with the FY 2001 request will enable the program to meet its
obligation to be responsive to emerging scientific issues, such as those raised
during our extensive ongoing interactions with the Nuclear Waste Technical
Review Board and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The FY 2001 budget request
also provides the foundation, again as described by the Viability Assessment, to
begin the activities necessary to submit a license application in the following
fiscal year, if the President recommends and Congress approves the site for
development as a repository. Our approach to address these issues with the Board
and the Commission as we proceed toward submitting a license application, is
provided in our recently issued and updated Program Plan (Revision 3).
From the FY 2001 budget request of $437.5 million, we
have proposed allocating $358.3 million, an increase of 27
percent above the FY 2000 allocation, to the Yucca Mountain
Site Characterization Project. For activities under the purview of the Waste
Acceptance, Storage, and Transportation Project, $3.8 million
is allocated. For essential program management and integration functions,
including those that are required to support a quality assurance program in
accordance with Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations and to finalize the
Environmental Impact Statement that must accompany a site recommendation,
$75.4 million is allocated. In addition, we plan to continue
our commitment to further streamline overhead functions.
the Department's contracting policy regarding management and operations
contracts, and in conformance with direction provided in the enacted Energy and
Water Development Appropriation, in FY 2001 we are recompeting our management
and operations contract.
The program's current management and operations
contract was awarded in 1991 and will expire in February 2001. We expect to
award a follow- on performance-based contract in FY 2001. With full support of
our FY 2001 request, we expect to successfully recompete and achieve our
milestone for the decision on site recommendation. Within each budget element,
we have allocated funds for contractor transition to ensure continuity of the
technical work during FY 2001.
Also in FY 2001, the Program will work
closely with the Russian Federation to address radioactive waste management
strategies. A new initiative to advance the Department's nonproliferation
objectives with Russia is included in the Departmental budget request for the
National Nuclear Security Administration. The funding requested for that
initiative would be co-managed by the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste
Management and the Office of Non-Proliferation and National Security. We will
address issues related to spent nuclear fuel storage and disposal through
cooperative activities under bilateral agreements that we are developing with
the Russian Federation.
reflects the funding that will be needed to enable us to meet a most critical
performance measure: maintaining the schedule to begin waste acceptance by 2010.
This has been the Department's goal since 1989. The Department takes seriously
its obligation to accept commercial spent nuclear fuel, as well as the need to
provide a permanent disposal solution for defense spent fuel and other
government-owned high-level radioactive wastes.
Our measures for FY 2001
are: issuing the Final Environmental Impact Statement with the site
recommendation decision in FY 2001; and continuing to prepare a license
application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for submission in FY 2002,
contingent on a site recommendation by the President and designation of the site
FY 2001 ACTIVITIES
I would now like to describe in
more detail our FY 2001 objectives and how the funding requested in our budget
request will support our activities. I have, as an attachment to my testimony,
provided a summary of the program's accomplishments in FY 1999 and our ongoing
activities this fiscal year.
FY 2001, the funds allocated to the Yucca Mountain Site
Characterization Project will be used to advance the work identified in the
Viability Assessment. This work includes addressing the remaining uncertainties
by studying the presence and movement of water through the repository block, the
effects of water movement on the waste package, and the effects of heat from the
decay of radioactive materials inside the waste packages on the site's geologic
and hydrologic behavior. In addition, the program is addressing some of the
design and engineering work suggested by the Nuclear Waste Technical Review
Board. Through our work activities, we will:
Complete the necessary
scientific and engineering work for the characterization of the Yucca
Update the total system performance assessment
of Yucca Mountain, supporting the development of a site
recommendation and integrating process models refined to reflect our current
understanding of the geology, hydrology, and geochemistry within Yucca
Issue the Site Recommendation Consideration Report to
inform all parties about our evaluation to date.
consideration hearings, before the Secretary decides whether or not to recommend
the site to the President.
Issue the Final Environmental Impact
Statement for a Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and
High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, Nye County,
Continue and increase our efforts to support the preparation of
a high-quality, complete, and defensible license application to the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission if the President recommends the site in 2001.
plan for FY 2001 and beyond reflects the evolution of the project emphasis from
scientific investigations to data synthesis, model validation, repository and
waste package design, safety analysis, and documentation. The program's
near-term priorities upon completion of site characterization will be to enhance
and refine repository design features and to develop the remaining information
required to continue to a license application if a decision to recommend the
site is made.
Our budget request for Yucca Mountain is
allocated under the following project elements: Core Science, Design and
Engineering, Licensing/ Suitability/Performance Assessment, Environmental Review
under the National Environmental Policy Act, Operations/Construction, External
Oversight and Payments-Equal-to-Taxes, and Yucca Mountain
Project Management. The activities planned under each of these categories are
Core Science includes: collecting
site characterization and performance confirmation data from the surface and
subsurface; performing laboratory tests; monitoring and collecting environmental
data; formulating scientific hypotheses; modeling individual and combined
natural processes; compiling scientific information for technical data bases;
and writing scientific descriptions and analyses used to document results and
The FY 2001 allocation of $69.4 million to
Core Science is a decrease of two percent ($1.2 million) below
the FY 2000 funding level. In FY 2000, we began to concentrate on data synthesis
and documentation, model updating and validation, and definition of performance
confirmation activities, reflecting our plans to complete site characterization.
In FY 2001, we will complete our effort to acquire and analyze site
characterization information needed to reduce the scientific uncertainties
identified in the Viability Assessment, prior to making a suitability evaluation
site recommendation decision, and if appropriate, submitting a license
application. In the coming years, Core Science activities will focus on
confirmatory testing supporting a license application. Specific activities will
focus on testing in the Exploratory Studies Facility, including the cross-drift
and the drift-scale heater test; confirmatory field-scale tests; modeling;
environmental, safety, and health compliance; and environmental monitoring and
Within the Exploratory Studies Facility, we will
continue the long- term drift-scale heater test that began in December 1997.
This test will allow us to determine how the rock and fluids in a repository
system will behave over the long-term in the presence of heat generated by
radioactive decay of the emplaced waste. We will continue testing in the
cross-drift to collect data on hydrologic properties of the repository horizon.
For example, we will study fracture-matrix interaction and fracture flow
properties, particularly of the lower lithophysal unit where approximately 65
percent of the emplacement drifts are expected to be located.
continue to incorporate test results into geologic and hydrologic process
models. These models underlie the total system performance assessment models
that support both the site recommendation and license application. Confirmatory
data collection and long-duration testing will continue.
The FY 2001
budget request includes $10 million for a cooperative agreement
between the Department and the University and Community College System of Nevada
(UCCSN). The agreement started in FY 1999 and will continue into FY 2002. The
cooperative agreement provides the public and the Yucca
Mountain Project with an independently derived body of scientific and
engineering data concerning the study of Yucca Mountain. Under
this agreement, UCCSN will perform scientific and engineering research and will
foster collaborative working relationships between government and academic
Design and Engineering:
Design and Engineering
includes three major areas: waste package development, repository design, and
systems engineering. In turn, waste package development includes two distinct
areas: design of the waste package, and testing of waste forms and waste package
materials. Repository design also includes two areas: subsurface and surface
facilities. Systems engineering coordinates all aspects of design, construction,
and operations to ensure that designs meet all requirements and that facilities
are fully integrated.
The FY 2001 allocation of $111.2
million to Design and Engineering is an increase of 68 percent
($44.9 million) above the FY 2000 funding level. This FY 2001
funding level will allow the program to resume design work that was deferred due
to budget shortfalls that forced the program to focus efforts on site
characterization. As part of a natural design evolution, we will continue to
refine the repository and waste package design features beyond the concept that
was evaluated in the Viability Assessment. Our activities in this area will
focus on providing the basis for decisions and advancing the designs consistent
with the regulatory requirements for a license application, if the site is
recommended. Program scientists and engineers will analyze the design
features in a total system performance assessment that incorporates
updated data from core science activities and process models. In part, the
increased FY 2001 allocation addresses requests and recommendations made by the
Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for
further design enhancements and details. This work is necessary to develop a
repository and waste package design suitable for a site recommendation and,
further, evolving to a license application design.
Licensing/Suitability/Performance Assessment encompass compiling the technical
documentation that serves as the basis of a suitability determination and a
possible recommendation to proceed with developing the Yucca
Mountain site. If the Yucca Mountain site is
recommended by the President and Congress, for further development, the program
will refine and subsequently document its work to shift the focus toward
addressing the licensing expectations of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Assessing the performance of a repository system at Yucca
Mountain is critical to both a site recommendation in FY 2001 and any
subsequent licensing activities.
The FY 2001 allocation of
$85 million to Licensing/Suitability/Performance Assessment is
an increase of 38 percent ($23.6 million) above the FY 2000
funding level. The culmination of the program's site characterization efforts is
to prepare the documentation required under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to
support a decision on whether or not to submit a site recommendation to the
President. In support of a recommendation, the program's focus for early FY 2001
is to complete the Site Recommendation Consideration Report. This report will
present general background information and descriptions of the site
characterization program and the site. It will also include descriptions of the
repository design, the waste form and waste packages, a discussion of data
related to the safety of the site, and a description of the performance
assessment of the repository.
The Site Recommendation Consideration
Report and its supporting documents will be made available to the State of
Nevada, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and stakeholders in FY 2001. The
program will then focus its efforts on addressing their comments and views.
Public hearings will be held in the area around the Yucca
Mountain site. We also expect to receive comments from the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission, and views and comments from the Governor and legislature
of Nevada. These comments and our responses will be part of the basis for a site
recommendation presented to the President.
Assessing how a repository
system at Yucca Mountain might perform is critical to a
decision regarding whether to recommend the site. The performance assessment of
a repository system at Yucca Mountain will be refined to
incorporate advances in the program's scientific understanding of the natural
systems at Yucca Mountain, and to integrate refinements in
waste package and repository design. Even after a suitability evaluation and
site recommendation decision is made, performance assessment iterations would
continue to address the licensing expectations of the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission and to present the program's understanding of how a repository will
perform at limiting human exposure to radionuclide releases.
application technical data used for a repository and waste package design, total
system performance assessment, and models for site processes and conditions,
must be traceable and electronically retrievable in accordance with the
Commission's regulation 10 CFR Part 2, Subpart J. We will use the latest
available web-based technologies to ensure that program data and records are
easily retrievable and available to stakeholders.
under the National Environmental Policy Act:
The FY 2001 allocation of
$1.6 million to Environmental Review is an increase of 21
percent ($0.3 million) above the FY 2000 funding level. During
FY 2001, we will complete all necessary Environmental Review documentation,
including the Final Environmental Impact Statement, which is required by the
Nuclear Waste Policy Act to accompany a site recommendation. The FY 2001
activities include a Departmental and inter-agency review of all documents in
accordance with Council on Environmental Quality requirements, Environmental
Protection Agency rules, and Department of Energy implementing regulations. The
program will also complete the administrative work necessary to support the
Final Environmental Impact Statement.
The FY 2001 allocation of $33 million to
Operations/Construction is an increase of 10 percent ($3.0
million) above the FY 2000 funding level. This budget request will support the
completion of construction of the Exploratory Studies Facility. Following
completion, the program's operations activities will transition to the
maintenance of the underground facilities to conduct confirmatory testing. These
activities are in part to verify what we have learned from our core science
work, as well as to verify the effectiveness of waste package and repository
External Oversight and Payments-Equal-to-Taxes (PETT):
The FY 2001 allocation of $21.8 million to External
Oversight and Payments-Equal-to-Taxes is an increase of 33 percent
($5.4 million) above the FY 2000 funding level. In its budget
request, the Administration continues to support the oversight activities of the
State of Nevada as required by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. These oversight
activities are solely for independent review of ongoing scientific and technical
work. The FY 2001 increase is the result of a newly negotiated
payment-equal-to-taxes agreement with the State of Nevada and the local
counties; it restores funding to the State of Nevada to support oversight
External oversight activities consist of financial and
technical assistance to the State of Nevada and affected units of local
government (i.e., Churchill, Clark, Esmeralda, Eureka, Lander, Lincoln, Mineral,
Nye, and White Pine Counties in Nevada and Inyo County in California).
Payments-equal-to-taxes are made to the State of Nevada and Nye and Clark
Yucca Mountain Project Management:
The FY 2001 allocation of $36.3 million to Project
Management is a small increase -- 3 percent ($1.1 million) --
above the FY 2000 funding level.
Project Management includes conducting
public information and outreach programs to ensure open and informative
interactions with the State of Nevada, units of local government, the public,
technical review organizations, and other program stakeholders. In FY 2001, we
expect increased interest due to the impending site recommendation and
environmental review activities. Project Management will continue in FY 2001 to
further enhance project control activities, including planning, budgeting, and
scheduling, in coordination with Program Management and Integration.
WASTE ACCEPTANCE, STORAGE, AND TRANSPORTATION
responsibilities of the Waste Acceptance, Storage, and Transportation (WAST)
Project are to develop a process for the physical transfer of spent nuclear fuel
to the federal government in accordance with applicable legal requirements. In
preparation for such a transfer when a federal facility becomes available, the
small budget request for this area maintains the core capability to implement a
private sector-based national transportation capability for waste acceptance and
transportation, and to resolve institutional issues with stakeholders in
preparation for the implementation of the transfer.
The FY 2001 allocation of $1.75 million to
Transportation represents the resumption of activities to develop a private
sector-based national transportation capability that would be required if a
positive site recommendation is made in FY 2001. The Department plans to update
and solicit comments on a draft request for proposals for waste acceptance and
transportation services after FY 2001, if the site is recommended by the
Secretary and approved by the President and Congress. After considering comments
on the draft request for proposals, we plan to release the final request for
proposals in FY 2002.
The FY 2001 allocation of
$1.5 million for Waste Acceptance is a 20 percent
($0.25 million) increase from the FY 2000 funding level. Waste
Acceptance activities will focus on developing modifications to the Standard
Disposal Contract to support the acquisition of waste acceptance and
transportation services from the private sector. FY 2001 activities include
updating the commercial spent nuclear fuel discharge projections, which are
necessary to determine implementation of the Standard Disposal Contract.
The FY 2001 allocation will serve to integrate acceptance criteria and
schedules for Department-owned spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive
waste under the auspices of the Office of Environmental and Waste Management;
surplus plutonium and mixed-oxide fuel under the auspices of the National
Nuclear Security Administration; and spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste
from the naval reactor program.
PROGRAM MANAGEMENT AND INTEGRATION
The Program Management and Integration Activity oversees the integration
of Yucca Mountain Site Characterization Office and Waste
Acceptance and Transportation Project activities to ensure that they comply with
all external regulatory requirements, Departmental reporting and accounting
systems, and oversight organizations.
The FY 2001 allocation of
$75.4 million to Program Management and Integration is a 10
percent increase ($7.2 million) above the FY 2000 funding
level. The increase reflects the need to assure that major programmatic decision
documents expected in FY 2001 comply with the statutory requirements of the
Nuclear Waste Policy Act, as well as regulatory requirements imposed by the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other
federal oversight groups.
A significant portion of the FY 2001 Program
Management and Integration allocation will go towards continuing to implement a
Nuclear Quality Assurance program that sufficiently addresses the expectations
of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, as
amended, any facility that may be constructed must be licensed by the
Commission, thus necessitating the implementation of an effective Nuclear
Quality Assurance program.
The Program Management and Integration
allocation funds a critical element of the work required to reach the decision
on site recommendation, and that support the completion of the Final
Environmental Impact Statement, which must accompany a site recommendation. A
specialist contractor continues to finalize the Environmental Impact Statement
to develop an independent assessment that meets the requirements for
Finally, the FY 2001 allocation will be utilized
for federal salaries and benefits, and mandatory costs to utilize facilities and
infrastructure for the federal staff.
is in litigation over the delay in meeting our contractual obligation to accept
spent fuel from the nuclear utility companies by January 31, 1998. The issue of
waste acceptance is clearly one that is high on our agenda and we are actively
working with utilities in an effort to resolve it and the ongoing litigation.
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, as
I said in my opening remarks, we have made significant progress. The Department
is coming to the end of a long road. When we set out to characterize the
Yucca Mountain site through an ambitious scientific program, we
knew that we would be faced with challenges. I believe that by the end of FY
2001, we will have met those challenges. While there will likely be additional
scientific and institutional issues that we will have to address to support the
licensing process if the site is recommended by the Secretary and the President
approves the recommendation, the program is well positioned to move forward.
The program is nearing a decision in FY 2001 to determine if we can move
ahead with a permanent solution to the management of our nation's spent nuclear
fuel and high-level radioactive waste. The funding we have requested is needed
to enable us to complete, on schedule, the activities that are necessary for an
informed policy decision. The program has been able to maintain the schedule for
major milestones over the past years despite significant reductions from our
request level, but only by deferring work. Now, when we are so close to
significant decision points, we should not delay this program.
you to consider favorably our appropriation request.
Thank you. I would
be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
SUBMITTED FOR THE
FY 1999 - FY 2000 HIGHLIGHTS
FY 1999 AND
FY 2000 FUNDING OVERVIEW
In FY 1999, OCRWM received an appropriation of
$358 million. Of this, $4 million was
allocated to evaluate the feasibility of Accelerator Transmutation of Waste
technology, as directed by Congress. We allocated $282 million
(79 percent) to the Yucca Mountain Site Characterization
In FY 2000, OCRWM received an appropriation of
$351.2 million. Of that, we allocated over
$281.2 million (80 percent) to the Yucca
Mountain Site Characterization Project, the Program's principal focus.
FOCUS OF ACTIVITIES IN FY 1999 AND FY 2000
The near-term focus
of the Program is to complete the work to support the Secretary's decision on
whether or not to recommend the Yucca Mountain site to the
President for further development as a repository. Since the publication of the
Viability Assessment of a Repository at Yucca Mountain early in
FY 1999, the Program has continued to gain momentum toward this recommendation.
The Viability Assessment has been used as a management tool to focus our site
characterization activities to support this recommendation.
In FY 2000,
as a result of a funding level below the President's budget request, we
prioritized our technical investigations. Our focus in FY 2000 was on the
science and engineering activities that most effectively reduce the level of
uncertainty in analyses of repository performance.
We have continued the
transition begun a number of years ago from a program previously dominated by
underground construction activities and corresponding investigative science to
data synthesis, model development and validation, performance assessment, and
engineering related to repository and waste package designs. The Program also
continues to place emphasis on Nuclear Quality Assurance activities to ensure
that the data and models we utilize will support licensing, assuming the site is
recommended and the President and Congress accept the site recommendation.
Mountain Site Characterization Office has made significant progress
toward completing the scientific investigations and engineering studies that are
necessary to support a determination on the suitability of the Yucca
Mountain site and a possible site recommendation.
focused on three areas identified in the Viability Assessment for further study:
the presence and movement of water through the repository block, the effects of
water movement on the waste package, and the effects of heat from the decay of
radioactive materials inside the waste packages on the site's geologic and
hydrologic behavior. Testing activities in all these areas have yielded
important data that enhance our understanding of the natural characteristics and
properties of Yucca Mountain and how a repository at that site
In January 2000, we updated the Repository Safety
Strategy. This strategy is the roadmap that lays out our postclosure safety case
to support a site recommendation decision. It identifies the key factors that
affect repository performance and provides the basis for focusing our remaining
site characterization activities. As a result of this prioritization, we believe
that the basic processes that could affect repository performance are
understood, and that the main emphasis for completing site characterization is
to reduce uncertainties and to validate our models.
Among our scientific
and technical accomplishments are:
Continuation of the drift-scale
heater test, which we are conducting to obtain data on the mechanical,
thermohydrologic, and thermochemical properties of the potential repository host
rock, 1000 feet below the surface of Yucca Mountain. The test
has been in operation since 1997 and will continue for several more years. We
have heated the rock and are maintaining the drift wall temperature at 392
degrees Fahrenheit for two years, before beginning a cool-down cycle. We have
bored holes into the drift walls at varying distances from the heater to collect
data and measure the results as the test progresses.
Testing in the
underground facility at Busted Butte near Yucca Mountain, which
provides an analog to the rock that lies below the potential repository horizon.
These tests are important to understand the potential transport of certain
radionuclides from the repository area, through the unsaturated zone, and into
the water table underlying Yucca Mountain. We have found that
certain minerals, found naturally in the rock, bond with radionuclides and
inhibit their movement.
Examination of the movement of moisture within
the mountain. We completed the cross drift in the Exploratory Studies Facility
and will complete construction of test alcoves this year. We have begun a final
set of experiments that will introduce water above the Exploratory Studies
Facility and will monitor humidity and seepage in the Exploratory Studies
Facility. We are analyzing information from tracer injection experiments to
validate our estimates of seepage.
Measurement of water levels from a
series of monitoring stations located in deep bore holes.
collecting of information for the environmental baseline, including wind, air
quality, rainfall, surface water runoff, and flora and fauna.
testing on the nuclear waste types expected to be disposed in the repository to
determine the effects on the waste and cladding from heat, moisture, and
Continued testing of potential waste package
materials to determine corrosion rates and to identify other potential changes
due to heat, moisture, and chemical reactions.
Design and trade-off
studies to select the repository and waste package reference design for the site
recommendation and the final environmental impact statement.
recognize that uncertainty can affect confidence in decisions related to the
suitability of the Yucca Mountain site. In evolving the
repository design concept over the past year, we have sought to select a design
and to specify conditions on its implementation that are responsive to concerns
about demonstrating performance, while at the same time balancing such
significant factors as long-term public safety, intergenerational equity, worker
safety, and cost.
In September 1999, this natural evolution resulted in
an enhanced design that addresses these overarching concerns and responds to
recommendations by the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board. A key aspect of the
enhanced design is a lower repository temperature, achieved through a set of
thermal management techniques. We have also emphasized the need for flexibility
to ensure that new scientific and engineering data gathered throughout the site
characterization, construction, and operation and monitoring phases can be
accommodated through reasonable changes in the repository design or operational
concept. Similarly, our emphasis on flexibility allows for changes that might be
driven by evolution in national policy at some future juncture.
efforts to make necessary modifications to the regulatory framework for
evaluating the suitability of the Yucca have progressed. On November 30, 1999,
the Department published a proposed revision to its repository siting
guidelines. The comment period closed on February 28, 2000. The proposed revised
guidelines reflect a shift away from a generic approach, which compared one site
to another using individual technical criteria to a site-specific approach that
relies on an overall, integrated systems evaluation of the expected performance
of a repository at Yucca Mountain. The Nuclear Regulatory
Commission took this same approach in its licensing regulation. These
regulations must be compatible: a site that meets the Department's suitability
guidelines should be one that is likely to satisfy the Commission's requirements
and receive a license.
If the repository is to be licensed, the dose to
a member of the public, as predicted by our total system performance assessment
models, cannot exceed the regulatory standards that are now being finalized. In
FY 1999, we developed the detailed bases of the performance assessment models
that will support this evaluation. These models integrate data from site
investigations and laboratory studies, expert judgment, and information about
engineered barriers. We updated the performance assessment models to reflect new
information from site investigations and laboratory studies, advances in the
modeling of physical processes at the site, and the enhanced repository design.
We also completed a comprehensive peer review of our total system performance
assessment. This independent evaluation and critique supports ongoing model
refinement, which will be completed in FY 2000.
The Program's completion
of the initial performance confirmation plan for the repository is a
forward-looking accomplishment that underscores our commitment to ensuring
repository performance. This plan establishes that confirmatory testing will
continue as long as necessary before repository closure to assure the Department
and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the repository system will isolate
waste as planned.
In July 1999, we reached a major program milestone by
releasing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for a Geologic Repository for
the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste at
Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada. The draft environmental
impact statement presents the results of an analysis of potential impacts
associated with constructing, operating and monitoring, and eventually closing a
repository at Yucca Mountain and of transporting waste to
Yucca Mountain from 77 sites across the United States.
We recognize the need for public review of, and input into, this
important document and have accommodated many requests from our stakeholders.
During a 199-day public comment period, we conducted 21 hearings throughout the
country to solicit comments on the draft environmental impact statement. Over
2,600 individuals attended those hearings and over 700 provided comments; the
total number of comments received at the hearings and in writing exceeded 3,300.
The final environmental impact statement will accompany a decision by the
Secretary on whether or not to recommend the site for development as a permanent
The U.S. leads the world in the science needed to develop a
geologic repository, and the Program is active in efforts to share information
and foster safe radioactive waste management around the globe. On October 31-
November 3, 1999, the Department sponsored an international conference on
geologic repositories. This conference highlighted global progress on the
management of nuclear materials and radioactive waste, and provided a forum to
discuss ongoing and planned activities to develop geologic repositories. Both
the policy and technical aspects of geologic disposal were addressed, and
conference participants were invited to tour Yucca Mountain.
Conference participants issued a Joint Declaration reiterating the international
commitment to the safe management of nuclear waste.
As a separate
initiative, OCRWM is working with the Russian Federation in a cooperative
program to support our nation's nonproliferation objectives.
to complete a bilateral agreement with the Russian Federation in FY 2000 that
will foster collaborative repository research and assist the Russian Federation
in developing a path forward for radioactive waste and surplus fissile materials
The Program also evaluated the potential application of
accelerator transmutation of waste to civilian spent nuclear fuel. In October
1999, in response to prior Congressional direction, the Department submitted to
Congress "A Roadmap for Developing Accelerator Transmutation of Waste
Technology." To prepare the report, OCRWM established a steering group that
included representatives from the key National Laboratories and from the
National Academy of Sciences. In addition, an international expert panel
outlined a science-based research program to address key issues and possible
implementation scenarios for development and deployment of accelerator
transmutation of waste technology. One critical issue is whether the achievable
benefits outweigh the costs. Research by the National Academy of Sciences found
that accelerator transmutation of waste is technically feasible, but would
require billions of dollars and many decades to implement, and would not
eliminate the need for a repository.
WASTE ACCEPTANCE, STORAGE AND
During FY 1999 and to date in FY 2000, the Waste
Acceptance, Storage, and Transportation Project focused on planning the process
for accepting spent nuclear fuel from utilities and Department-owned spent
nuclear fuel and high-level wastes from the defense complex. Our activities
included updating inventories of commercial and Department- owned materials
destined for repository disposal, updating verification plans, and completing
prelicensing interactions with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on the Phase 1
Centralized Interim Storage Facility Topical Safety Analysis Report, the
Dry-Transfer System for Spent Nuclear Fuel Topical Safety Analysis Report, and
the Actinide-Only Burn-Up Credit Topical Report. The Department made progress in
developing modifications to the Standard Disposal Contract to support the
processes related to waste acceptance and transportation services that will be
provided by private sector vendors.
PROGRAM MANAGEMENT AND INTEGRATION
During FY 1999 and to date in FY 2000, the Program's management center continued
to support the activities of the two projects - the Yucca
Mountain Site Characterization Project and the Waste Acceptance,
Storage, and Transportation Project.
Quality Assurance is a critical
component of our work products to ensure that they can withstand scrutiny when
the Site Recommendation Consideration Report is released in FY 2001. Through
audits, surveillances, and assessments, our QA personnel continued to work
closely with technical personnel conducting scientific studies, design work, and
performance assessment to identify the activities with greatest impact on levels
of confidence related to evaluations of site suitability and possible license
application. They examined whether that work was performed under appropriate QA
requirements, whether requirements were fully understood, whether they were
properly implemented, and whether compliance was adequately documented. For
performance assessment, QA reviews focused on model validation, qualification of
existing data, and software control. Deficiencies were evaluated and, where
warranted, root causes were investigated. For each deficiency, a corrective
action plan was implemented.
We provided systems engineering and
integration support for site characterization, waste package design, and
repository design activities and for the waste acceptance and transportation
initiatives. We continued to conduct systems analyses to support selection of
design alternatives for the site recommendation and license application. We
prepared updates of the total system life- cycle cost and the fee adequacy
report. We updated interface control documents and refined the Program's waste
acceptance criteria for non- commercial spent nuclear fuel and high-level
We coordinated and integrated the Program's
activities with other Departmental elements. With the Office of Environmental
Management and the Office of Fissile Materials Disposition, we continued to
develop and implement an integrated schedule for the Monitored Geologic Disposal
We prepared updates to the OCRWM Program Plan and the Annual
Report to Congress, and supported updates of the Department's Strategic Plan. In
addition, we participated in numerous Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board and
panel meetings and in pre-licensing meetings with the Nuclear Regulatory
Our current management and operations contract expires in
February 2001. We are currently recompeting this contract to ensure appropriate
support as we plan, integrate and manage a complex program in a Nuclear
Regulatory Commission licensing environment. In January 2000, we issued a draft
request for proposals to announce our intent to recompete this contract, in
accordance with Departmental guidelines and consistent with Congressional
We continued the development and implementation of a
Program-wide information architecture to provide the foundation for definition,
development, organization, management of, as well as access to, all Program
data, records, and information systems.
We continued to use the Internet
to distribute a variety of information to interested stakeholders. Many of the
Program's policy and technical documents are available to the public through our
Finally, the Program met all Departmental Y2K
milestones. Our mission- critical systems were subsequently independently
verified and validated, and the transition to 2000 was problem-free.
LOAD-DATE: April 12, 2000