U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY EXPERIENCE IN CREATING AND COMMUNICATING THE CASE FOR THE SAFETY OF A POTENTIAL YUCCA MOUNTAIN REPOSITORY Page: 2 of 13
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W. J. Boyle and A. E. Van Luik
for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to review. But the need exists to explain the content of this
application, and the process of which it is a part, to a variety of other, non-regulatory, audiences.
THE 2002 CASE FOR YUCCA MOUNTAIN SAFETY
1. The tiers of documents supporting the site recommendation decision
A highly technical document was produced that demonstrated that the applicable regulation, the
Department's Siting Guidelines, published in the Code of Federal Regulations at Title 10 Part 963
(hereafter 10 CFR 963 or simply Part 963), was met . This regulatory compliance document is the
Yucca Mountain Site Suitability Evaluation . In turn, this document was supported by a more
comprehensive document, the Yucca Mountain Science and Engineering Report  giving the
scientific foundations for its compliance arguments. Thus, two documents were prepared. One was to
show compliance, the other to show the science underlying that compliance. The Yucca Mountain
Science and Engineering Report was supported by many analysis and model reports. There are too
many to list here, but they are generally available on the Internet at
A third document, required by law, was a Final Environmental Impact Statement . It is a
comprehensive discussion of safety and other potential impact items required by the National
Environmental Policy Act, (NEPA). It is generally readable by non-specialists, with more detailed
treatments of certain issues, and discussions of data and calculations, available in more technical
appendices. In addition, it has a "Readers Guide" and a "Summary" document, both of which are
designed to be readable by non-specialists.
Finally, to convey the decision being made (the site recommendation to the President) and give an
indication of its basis to the general public, a two-part brochure was produced and made available on
the Internet . The first part is Why Yucca Mountain?, the second part is Why Yucca Mountain?
Frequently Asked Questions.
Indications are that these documents served their various purposes. A recommendation was made to
the President, by the Secretary of Energy, via a letter . In that letter, mention is made of a peer
review by an international group of experts with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
involvement. The letter, in turn, transmitted a more substantial explanation of the Secretary's decision
to recommend the site  and makes clear that the IAEA review referred to in the letter is the joint
review performed and published by the IAEA with the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and
Development's Nuclear Energy Agency  (referred to hereafter as the NEA-IAEA review).
2. Making the case for long-term repository safety
The NEA-IAEA review, in Section 2.5, indicated that the safety evaluations that were the subject of
the review were found to be "soundly based and implemented in a competent manner," and provided
"an adequate basis for supporting a statement on likely compliance within the regulatory period of 10
000 years, and, accordingly, for the site recommendation decision." (Emphasis in original.) However,
the NEA-IAEA review also made critical observations about the work being too narrowly focused on
regulatory compliance and not making a broader case for showing the level of understanding reflected
in these safety evaluations. The review made a number of observations about the approach being
conservative in some key respects, and for not making a case for the intrinsic robustness of the
proposed repository system. In its Section 3.1 the review makes clear that what was looked for and
found wanting was a "Safety Case:"
A Safety Case should be developed as a higher level document, and include the articulation of
a strategy to achieve safety as distinct from the strategy for demonstrating compliance, with an
emphasis on obtaining and communicating understanding and facilitating dialogue with the
The tiers of documentation described above, taken as a whole, make a comprehensive case for safety
and demonstrate understanding of the system to a wide range of potential stakeholder audiences
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Boyle, W. J. & Luik, A. E. Van. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY EXPERIENCE IN CREATING AND COMMUNICATING THE CASE FOR THE SAFETY OF A POTENTIAL YUCCA MOUNTAIN REPOSITORY, report, August 30, 2005; Las Vegas, Nevada. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc876036/m1/2/: accessed April 23, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.