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GAO discussed the Department of Energy's (DOE) proposal to construct and operate a monitored retrievable storage (MRS) facility for spent nuclear fuel, focusing on whether the proposal provided adequate information for a congressional decision on whether to authorize the facility. GAO noted that the Nuclear Waste Policy Act: (1) authorized DOE to dispose of commercial spent fuel and other highly radioactive wastes in a geologic repository; and (2) required DOE to study long-term waste storage in one or more MRS facilities as an option for safe and reliable spent-fuel management, and to submit to Congress a proposal for adding such facilities to the authorized waste system. GAO found that the DOE proposal: (1) recommended MRS for handling and temporary storage, rather than for long-term storage as described in the act; (2) did not fully explore non-MRS alternatives for improving the current waste management system; and (3) did not estimate the full costs of building and operating an MRS facility. GAO believes that the MRS proposal does not provide enough information for Congress to determine: (1) if other improvements to the current waste system can provide many of the perceived benefits of the MRS facility at less cost; or (2) whether the added benefits DOE expects outweigh the additional costs.

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