Yucca Mountain: DOE Has Improved Its Quality Assurance Program, but Whether Its Application for a NRC License Will Be High Quality Is Unclear

GAO-07-1010 Published: Aug 02, 2007. Publicly Released: Aug 06, 2007.
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Nuclear power reactors generate highly radioactive waste. To permanently store this waste, the Department of Energy (DOE) has been working to submit a license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain about 100 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada. Although the project has been beset with delays, in part because of persistent problems with its quality assurance program, DOE stated in July 2006 that it will submit a license application with NRC by June 30, 2008. NRC states that a high-quality application needs to be complete, technically adequate, transparent by clearly justifying underlying assumptions, and traceable back to original source materials. GAO examined (1) DOE's development of its schedule for submitting a license application and the stakeholders with whom it consulted, (2) NRC's assessment of DOE's readiness to submit a high-quality application, and (3) DOE's progress in addressing quality assurance recommendations and challenges identified in GAO's March 2006 report. GAO reviewed DOE's management plan for creating the license application, reviewed correspondence and attended prelicensing meetings between DOE and NRC, and interviewed DOE managers and NRC on-site representatives for the Yucca Mountain project. In commenting on a draft of the report, both DOE and NRC agreed with the report.

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