Geologic Factors in the Isolation of Nuclear Waste: Evaluation of Long-Term Geomorphic Processes and Catastrophic Events

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Mara, Susan J.

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Associated with commercial nuclear power production in the United States is the generation of potentially hazardous radioactive waste products. The Department of Energy (DOE), through the National Waste Terminal Storage (NWTS) Program and the Office of Nuclear Waste Isolation (ONWI), is seeking to develop nuclear waste isolation systems in geologic formations. These underground waste isolation systems will prevent contact between waste radionuclides and the biosphere, ensuring they don't reach concentrations harmful to humans or the environment. Comprehensive analyses of specific isolation systems are needed to assess their long-term effectiveness. The Assessment of Effectiveness of Geologic Isolation Systems (AEGIS) Program has been established to develop the capability of making those analyses.

Among the analyses required for system evaluation is the detailed assessment of the post-closure performance of nuclear waste repositories in geologic formations. This assessment focuses on aspects of the nuclear program that have not been previously addressed. The nature of the isolation systems (e.g., potential for breaches and transport through the geosphere) and the extremely long time periods over which the wastes must be controlled necessitate the development, demonstration, and application of novel assessment capabilities. The assessment methodology must be thorough, flexible, objective, and scientifically defensible. Furthermore, the data utilized must be accurate, documented, reproducible, and based on sound scientific principles.


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