Feb. 13, 2003

Livermore Scientist Reports on Staged Development of the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository

DENVER, Colo. — A Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist, who is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council, on Tuesday will give a progress report on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository at the 2003 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Tom Isaacs, a Livermore physicist and one of the 14 members of the National Research Council, will discuss the unique societal, scientific and technical demands that face federal officials working to store high-level radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain, which sits 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

He will speak Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. MST during the session titled: "Nuclear Waste: File and Forget?"
The 201-page NRC report, "One Step at a Time," outlines a staged development concept for the repository planned at Yucca Mountain.

"Building the underground and surface repository facilities in stages would allow decisions to be based on the latest available information," the report states. "The sooner the Department of Energy adopts adaptive staging for Yucca, the more effective this approach is likely to be."

"Adaptive staging" would avoid a rigid timeline for depositing waste at Yucca Mountain and allows project managers the flexibility to make adjustments during the disposal process based on operational experience or scientific advances.

"We think that this will assure the public that DOE is doing everything in its power to make sure the facility is safe," Isaacs said. "Using a ‘lessons learned’ approach during the early stages means those lessons can be incorporated into later stages."

The science board also recommends that DOE follow through on a pilot stage, after licensing from the state, which would place small amounts of radioactive waste in the repository to study performance over several years before storing large amounts of waste at the site.

DOE set 2010 as Yucca Mountain’s opening date, which won congressional approval last year.
Isaacs said Yucca Mountain should have an independent scientific oversight group and stakeholder advisory board supervising the process of waste transportation and storage at the site.


Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a national security laboratory, with a mission to ensure national security and apply science and technology to the important issues of our time. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

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