NWTRB Presses for Independent Review

April 1994

The Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, a civilian committee that oversees the Department of Energy's repository studies, is again pressing for an independent review at Yucca Mountain. The Board sent a letter report to Congress in late February recommending that an independent review of the DOE's civilian radioactive waste management program be conducted "sooner, rather than later."

Board members repeated a recommendation made last March, and stated that given the Secretary of Energy's recent request for money from the Nuclear Waste Fund, an independent review of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM) program should be conducted as soon as possible. The report states that increased funding will not solve the problems caused by OCRWM's large and unwieldy organizational structure.

The NWTRB suggested that a small, independent group of internationally known experts should be appointed to handle the OCRWM review. The NWTRB members believe such a review should be conducted concurrently with ongoing site characterization activities at Yucca Mountain.

In the letter report, the Board also recommended that the Yucca Mountain site characterization studies be sufficiently funded. The Board reported that too little funding is going to site characterization studies that will determine whether the site is suitable.

The Board's members criticized OCRWM for postponing underground excavation at Yucca Mountain (due to budget concerns) while increasing the number of contract employees by thirty-four percent since July 1991.

The Board's members believe that "at the very least, sufficient money should be guaranteed for those activities that facilitate finding any obvious features that could disqualify the site."

Finally, the Board recommended that the OCRWM build on Secretary O'Leary's recent public involvement initiatives by expanding current efforts to integrate stakeholder's views into its decision-making process.

The NWTRB was created by Congress in the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1987 to evaluate the technical and scientific validity of activities undertaken by the DOE in its program to manage the disposal of the nation's spent fuel and defense high-level waste. It members are appointed by the President from a list of scientists and engineers nominated by the National Academy of Sciences.

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