Nuclear Waste:

Uncertainties About the Yucca Mountain Repository Project

GAO-02-539T: Published: Apr 18, 2002. Publicly Released: Apr 18, 2002.

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As required by law, the Department of Energy (DOE) has been investigating a site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, to determine its suitability for disposing of highly radioactive wastes in a mined geologic repository. If the site is approved, DOE must apply to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for authorization to construct a repository. If the site is not approved for a license application, or if NRC denies a license to construct a repository, the administration and Congress will have to consider other options for the long-term management of existing and future nuclear wastes. DOE is not prepared to submit an acceptable license application to the NRC within the statutory limits that would take effect if the site is approved. DOE is unlikely to achieve its goal of opening a repository at Yucca Mountain by 2010. Sufficient time would not be available for DOE to obtain a license from NRC and construct enough of the repository to open it in 2010. Another key factor is whether DOE will be able to obtain the increases in annual funding that would be required to open the repository by 2010. DOE currently does not have a reliable estimate of when, and at what cost, a license application can be submitted or a repository can be opened because DOE stopped using its cost and schedule baselines to manage the site investigation in 1997.

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