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Yucca Mountain: Information on Alternative Uses of the Site and Related Challenges

GAO-11-847 Published: Sep 16, 2011. Publicly Released: Oct 17, 2011.
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The future of the Yucca Mountain project in Nevada--originally designated for permanent storage of nuclear waste--is uncertain. Since 1983, the Department of Energy (DOE) has spent billions of dollars to evaluate the Yucca Mountain site for potential use as a nuclear waste repository. In February 2010, the President proposed eliminating funding for the project, and in March 2010, DOE filed a motion to withdraw its license application. Stakeholders--federal officials, state and local government officials, private companies, and others--have expressed interest in whether the site's characteristics are suitable for alternative uses. GAO was asked to examine alternative uses for the Yucca Mountain site. This report examines: (1) the characteristics of the Yucca Mountain site; (2) stakeholders' proposed alternative uses, and experts' evaluations of them; and (3) challenges, if any, in pursuing alternative uses. We selected a nonprobability sample of experts that included experts affiliated with nationally recognized research organizations, universities, and national laboratories, and that did not represent or benefit from any of the stakeholders' proposed alternative uses of the site. Using a data collection instrument, we elicited comments from these experts on stakeholders' proposed uses. The alternative uses discussed in this report reflect the alternative uses these stakeholders proposed; they may not reflect all potential uses of the site. This report contains no recommendations. Interior generally agreed with our findings, while DOE, the U.S. Air Force, and NRC neither agreed nor disagreed.

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