GAO Views on Monitored Retrievable Storage of Nuclear Waste

T-RCED-88-55: Published: Jul 26, 1988. Publicly Released: Jul 26, 1988.

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GAO discussed the Department of Energy's (DOE) proposal to construct and operate a monitored retrievable storage (MRS) facility for the permanent disposal of highly radioactive wastes. GAO found that: (1) although the Nuclear Waste Policy Act envisioned MRS for long-term storage, DOE proposed MRS for waste handling and temporary storage purposes; (2) DOE concluded that, although various alternatives to MRS could improve the system, they would not provide the benefits of MRS; (3) DOE did not analyze the effects of the alternatives or develop detailed design plans; (4) DOE stated that it would be able to develop and operate MRS facilities several years sooner than a repository and would be able to locate them close to a large number of eastern power plants; (5) DOE estimated that building and operating MRS would add about $1.5 billion to the cost of the nuclear waste management system, but did not include costs for site acquisition, fees, royalties, upgrading roads and other costs; (6) DOE did not address public utilities' need for MRS, their alternatives to MRS, or the effect on their operations without MRS; (7) amendments to the act could delay the proposed operation of MRS beyond 1998, since DOE could not begin MRS construction until selection and construction of a repository site; and (8) DOE did not demonstrate any significant advantages to preparing nuclear waste disposal at a MRS facility, rather than at a repository site, other than reduced transportation distances. GAO believes that DOE and the MRS Review Commission need to address whether the remaining advantages of MRS are worth its additional cost, particularly since it is no longer available to eliminate utilities' needs for additional on-site storage capacity.

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