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Page i DISPOSITION OF HIGH-LEVEL WASTE AND SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL The Continuing Societal and Technical Challenges Committee on Disposition of High-Level Radioactive Waste Through Geological Isolation Board on Radioactive Waste Management Division on Earth and Life Studies National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C
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Page ii NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20418 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competencies and with regard for appropriate balance. Support for this study was provided by the following organizations: Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) Germany Institute of Applied Energy (IAE) Japan Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute (JNC) National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste (Nagra) Switzerland National Radioactive Waste Management Agency (ANDRA) France National Radioactive Waste Management Company (ENRESA) Spain Nuclear Research Center (SCK·CEN); National Agency for Nuclear Wastes and Fissile Materials (NIRAS/ONDRAF), Belgium Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB) United Kingdom Nirex Limited United States Department of Energy United States National Academy of Sciences United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission International Standard Book Number: 0-309-07317-0 Library of Congress Control Number: 2001090258 Additional copies of this report are available from: National Academy Press 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Box 285 Washington, DC 20055 800-624-6242 202-334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area) http://www.nap.edu Cover art by William Matthews: “Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations IV, p. 43 (Morris Hickley Morgan translation; page 142a of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 14th edition). These words were written by a Roman Emperor nearly 2000 years ago. Within a few years after Marcus Aurelius' death the institutions of Roman government crumbled and the Roman Empire descended into anarchy. Two thousand years is a short time compared to the period that high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel must be isolated. The challenge of assuring their safety and security is to construct an enduring system that can withstand the vicissitudes of nature and societal change. Copyright 2001 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America
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Page iii THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES National Academy of Sciences National Academy of Engineering Institute of Medicine National Research Council The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. William A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. William A. Wulf are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.
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Page iv COMMITTEE ON DISPOSITION OF HIGH-LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTE THROUGH GEOLOGICAL ISOLATION D. WARNER NORTH, Chair, NorthWorks, Inc., Belmont, California CHARLES MCCOMBIE, Vice-Chair, Consultant, Gipf-Oberfrick, Switzerland JOHN F. AHEARNE, Sigma Xi and Duke University, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina ROBERT J. BUDNITZ, Future Resources Associates, Inc., Berkeley, California LARS O. ERICSSON, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden PETER FRITZ, Environmental Research Center Leipzig-Halle, Leipzig, Germany ROGER E. KASPERSON, Stockholm Environment Institute, Sweden NIKOLAY P. LAVEROV, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow JANE C.S. LONG, Mackay School of Mines, University of Nevada, Reno GHISLAIN DE MARSILY, University of Paris, France CLAIRE M. MAYS, Institut Symlog, Cachan, France ATSUYUKI SUZUKI, University of Tokyo, Japan Staff KEVIN D. CROWLEY, Director JOHN R. WILEY, Senior Staff Officer, Study Director TONI GREENLEAF, Administrative Associate LAURA D. LLANOS, Senior Project Assistant ANGELA R. TAYLOR, Senior Project Assistant
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Page v PROJECT ADVISORY COMMITTEE* LAKE H. BARRET, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Washington, D.C. PAUL DEJONGHE, Nuclear Research Center (SCK•CEN), Mol, Belgium; National Agency for Nuclear Wastes and Fissile Materials (NIRAS/ONDRAF), Brussels, Belgium RAMÓN GAVELA, National Radioactive Waste Management Company (ENRESA), Madrid, Spain JOHN T. GREEVES, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC), Washington, D.C. ALAN HOOPER, United Kingdom Nirex Ltd., Oxfordshire KAZUMI KITAYAMA, Tokyo Electric Power Co., Japan YVES LE BARS, National Radioactive Waste Management Agency (ANDRA), Paris, France SUMIO MASUDA, Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute (JNC), Ibaraki; Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan (NUMO), Tokyo TÖNIS PAPP, Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB), Stockholm, Sweden HELMUT RÖTHEMEYER, Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS), Salzgitter, Germany JEFFREY WILLIAMS, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Washington, D.C. PIET ZUIDEMA, National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste (Nagra), Wettingen, Switzerland * Representatives of sponsoring organizations who provided advice on the organization of the 1999 workshop to the Committee on Disposition of High-Level Radioactive Waste Through Geological Isolation
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Page vi BOARD ON RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT JOHN F. AHEARNE, Chair, Sigma Xi and Duke University, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina CHARLES MCCOMBIE, Vice-Chair, Consultant, Gipf-Oberfrick, Switzerland ROBERT M. BERNERO, U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (retired), Gaithersburg, Maryland ROBERT J. BUDNITZ, Future Resources Associates, Inc., Berkeley, California GREGORY R. CHOPPIN, Florida State University, Tallahassee RODNEY EWING, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor JAMES H. JOHNSON, JR., Howard University, Washington, D.C. ROGER E. KASPERSON, Stockholm Environment Institute, Sweden NIKOLAY LAVEROV, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow JANE C. S. LONG, Mackay School of Mines, University of Nevada, Reno ALEXANDER MACLACHLAN, E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company (retired), Wilmington, Delaware WILLIAM A. MILLS, Oak Ridge Associated Universities (retired), Olney, Maryland MARTIN J. STEINDLER, Argonne National Laboratory (retired), Downers Grove, Illinois ATSUYUKI SUZUKI, University of Tokyo, Japan JOHN J. TAYLOR, Electric Power Research Institute (retired), Palo Alto, California VICTORIA J. TSCHINKEL, Landers and Parsons, Tallahassee, Florida Staff KEVIN D. CROWLEY, Director BARBARA PASTINA, Staff Officer GREGORY H. SYMMES, Senior Staff Officer JOHN R. WILEY, Senior Staff Officer SUSAN B. MOCKLER, Research Associate TONI GREENLEAF, Administrative Associate LATRICIA C. BAILEY, Senior Project Assistant LAURA D. LLANOS, Senior Project Assistant ANGELA R. TAYLOR, Senior Project Assistant JAMES YATES, JR., Office Assistant
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Page vii Acknowledgments This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC's Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Robert Bernero, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (retired) Garry Brewer, University of California, Berkeley, U.S. Mary English, University of Tennessee, U.S. Hans Forsström, European Commission, Brussels, Belgium Klaus Kühn, Technical University of Clausthal, Germany Sören Norrby, Swedish Nuclear Power Inspectorate, Stockholm Nick Pidgeon, University of East Anglia, U.K. Yasumasa Tanaka, Gakushuin University, Japan John Taylor, Electric Power Research Institute, U.S. (retired) Francis Tombs, U.K. House of Lords Chris Whipple, ENVIRON Corporation, U.S. Mary Lou Zoback, U.S. Geological Survey
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Page viii Although the individuals listed above have provided constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Dr. Kai N. Lee, Williams College and Dr. Clarence R. Allen, California Institute of Technology. Appointed by the National Research Council, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
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Page ix Preface The National Research Council of the U.S. National Academies has provided scientific and technical analysis to inform policy decisions related to nuclear waste since the 1950s. In its 1957 report, prepared at the request of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, the National Research Council endorsed the concept of geological disposal—placing high-level waste (HLW) in a carefully selected deep underground formation, where it would remain isolated from human beings and the environment long enough for the radioactivity to decay to near natural background levels. The goal was and still is to provide adequate protection of humans and the environment at all future times. Following this 1957 report and recommendations for geological disposal by other scientific advisory bodies, the United States and many other nations using nuclear technology established programs for managing HLW (including spent nuclear fuel if declared to be waste) through geological isolation. Most of these national programs are far behind their original schedules. No national program has yet been successful in siting a geological repository and emplacing HLW in it. In 1988, the Board on Radioactive Waste Management (BRWM), the entity within the National Research Council of the U.S. National Academies with responsibility for studies on nuclear waste, convened a study session with experts from the United States and abroad to discuss U.S. policies and programs for managing the nation's HLW. The board's follow-up report, Rethinking High-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal (NRC, 1990), provided a broad assessment of the technical and policy challenges
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Page x for developing a repository for the disposal of HLW. The board noted in the report (p. 2): There is a strong worldwide consensus that the best, safest long-term option for dealing with HLW is geological isolation. . . . Although the scientific community has high confidence that the general strategy of geological isolation is the best one to pursue, the challenges are formidable. The worldwide consensus of the technical community was documented as well by international bodies. The clearest examples are the collective opinions published by the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development together with the International Atomic Energy Agency and European Union (NEA, 1991b, 1999d). The views expressed were that geological disposal can be done ethically and safely. It was also recognized that considerable technical work—particularly in the area of site characterization—remained to be done. In pursuing geological disposal, national programs in several countries have made very significant progress over the past 25 years; however, they have also encountered a number of challenges. These include understanding the nature and rates of geological processes, assessing the potential effects of long-term environmental and climate change, quantitatively assessing repository and waste package performance, and projecting possible long-term human behavior—activities that are needed to assure adequate safety. Those national programs that have made or are in the transition from research to repository development have also confronted a challenge that has both technical and sociological overtones: simply put, some members of the public do not believe that geological isolation can be demonstrated to be a safe, long-term waste disposal solution. They doubt the ability of experts to understand the future behavior of the repository, and therefore to make the right decisions to protect public health. This segment of the public is consequently opposed to ending active control of the waste, even though its continued management may be a burden on future generations. Members of the public and their elected leaders who work or live near proposed HLW repository sites have challenged the integrity and fairness of the site selection process. Such public doubts, objections, and distrust typically come to the fore when a disposal program moves into the task of identifying specific repository sites. The reactions reflect lack of confidence and trust, not only in the geological disposal concept, but also in the organizations and processes involved in HLW management. Siting efforts for new surface storage facilities have also encountered strong local opposition. In the mid-1990s the BRWM observed that many national programs continue to face these substantial challenges and are actively seeking ways
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Page xi to address and overcome them. Believing that an international study would be of value, the BRWM initiated an effort to obtain sponsorship for this study. The scope of the project was self-generated by members of the BRWM, and deliberately broad in order to include new insights arising from an international workshop that was arranged to launch the study. The objective of this study is to inform and advise policymakers with responsibility for national HLW programs, in the United States and in other nations. This study is also intended for the interested segments of the public, as well as those in the technical and social science communities professionally involved in various issues involving HLW. The products of the study are twofold: a workshop held in 1999 and this report. Both were intended to provide an integrated overview of programmatic histories in many countries, of policy issues, of key scientific and technical aspects, and of observations and insights from social scientists. This report is a selection and synthesis of information presented at the workshop and of information available to the committee from other sources. The findings, conclusions, and recommendations reflect the committee's insights on how to achieve better planning and decision making on HLW. In particular, the study addresses the questions of whether and when to implement disposal of HLW through geological isolation, rather than focusing exclusively on how to implement geological disposal. The committee has addressed the broader challenge of how to assure the ongoing management of HLW needed to achieve safety and security. The study therefore includes consideration of alternatives to geological disposal. In using the term “disposition,” this report follows the usage in the title and text of the 1994 National Academy of Sciences report on excess weapons plutonium (NAS, 1994). “Disposition” denotes active management, either on the surface or in a geological setting underground, whereas “disposal” denotes an end to the need for active management, such as when a geological repository is closed and sealed. The focus of this study is on the alternatives for disposition of HLW, some of which lead to geological disposal. In early 1999 the necessary funding was pledged and the study was initiated, but in a fashion that is unusual for studies by the U.S. National Academies. More than half of the study committee members reside outside of the United States. An advisory committee was formed that included experts from the national programs sponsoring the study. The study committee met in Washington, D.C., in May 1999, and in consultation with the advisory committee, planned an international workshop to provide an opportunity for experts from many nations and disciplinary backgrounds to exchange views. This workshop was subsequently held at the Irvine, California, facility of the U.S. National Academies on November 4–5, 1999. The workshop was attended by more than 200 people
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Page xii from 17 countries. A briefing paper Disposition of High-Level Radioactive Waste through Geological Isolation, prepared and sent to attendees in advance of the workshop, is available from the Board on Radioactive Waste Management of the National Research Council. The workshop program and the list of attendees are included as Appendix B and Appendix C, respectively. Since the workshop, the study committee has used the deliberations at the workshop and other sources of information available to it to prepare this report. The committee met as a group once in Washington D.C., in March 2000, to deliberate on the findings and recommendations in the report and did most of its work in preparing this report through e-mail communications among committee and staff. The committee followed the usual U.S. National Academies' practices in preparing its report. Most notably, report drafts were not circulated outside the committee, and the draft report was subjected to National Research Council review before being approved for release. The chair and vice-chair express appreciation to the sponsors for their willingness to support an innovative effort of the U.S. National Academies to provide useful advice in a policy area that affects many nations. HLW disposition is a complex endeavor that utilizes information from many disciplines within the physical sciences, engineering, and also, very importantly, the social sciences. It was not easy for a diverse group from many disciplines and many countries to have a productive interchange in a two-day workshop. The chair and vice-chair wish to thank the workshop attendees, and in particular the session organizers, for their contributions, both at the meeting and in subsequent communications to us. It is even more of a challenge for a committee, made up of 12 members, supported by a small National Research Council staff, to come to agreement on how to turn its collective understanding of the complex and contentious challenges posed by HLW disposition into the consensus reflected in this report. Most U.S. National Research Council committees preparing reports do so through a process including many face-to-face meetings among committee members. Our committee was large and international, which ruled out such a process, so we used e-mail communication instead. We thank our colleagues on the committee for their determined efforts to work together via e-mail, to understand each other's viewpoints, and to resolve a very large number of issues—over long distances and over more than a year following the workshop. We also thank the staff for its outstanding effort in supporting the committee throughout this study. In particular, we thank Kevin Crowley, BRWM Director, whose enthusiasm and energetic support from initial conception six years ago to report production and dissemination has been invaluable to the study; and John Wiley, Study Director, who has carried the heavy burden
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Page xiii of managing the planning and arrangements for the 1999 workshop and the coordination and production of the workshop briefing paper and this report. We also thank the other NRC staff members who contributed to typing, editing, research support, and meeting arrangements: Toni Greenleaf, Laura D. Llanos, Susan B. Mockler, Suzanne Stackhouse, Angela R. Taylor, and Darla Thompson. D. Warner North, Chair Charles McCombie, Vice-Chair
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Page xv Contents Executive Summary 1 1 Disposition of High-Level Waste and Spent Nuclear Fuel: An Overview of the Societal and Technical Challenges 7 2 Principal Findings and Conclusions 20 3 Principal Recommendations 40 4 National Programs 49 5 Societal Issues in Radioactive Waste Management 67 6 Scientific and Technical Issues in Radioactive Waste Management 85 7 Alternatives to Geological Disposition 114 8 Improving Decision Making and Implementation 127 9 International Cooperation 143 References 158 Appendixes A Biographical Sketches of Committee Members 177 B Workshop Program 183 C List of Attendees 190 D Acronyms Used in this Report 197
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