Allocating Resources and Building Confidence in Public-Safety Decisions for Nuclear Waste Sites
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Allocating Resources and Building Confidence in Public-Safety Decisions for Nuclear Waste Sites

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  • Abstract:
    A major challenge of nuclear waste disposal is not only providing for public safety, but also demonstrating that safety. There are three basic ways to protect the public from the hazards of exposure to radionuclides in nuclear waste: completely contain the waste; limit the rate at which radionuclides are released; and, once radionuclides are released, minimize their impact by reducing concentrations and retarding transport. A geologic repository system that implements all three provides maximum protection for the public: if one element fails, the others serve to protect. This is “defense-in-depth.” Demonstrating confidence in the ability of a designed system to provide the requisite safety to the public must rely on a combination of the following aspects relating to engineered and natural system components: 1 Knowledge or understanding of properties and processes 2 Uniformity of (or ability to understand or control) the range of variability associated with each component 3 Experience over time This paper proposes a tool based on defining a “confidence region” determined by these three essential aspects of confidence. The defense-in-depth decisionmaking tool described identifies the portion of the ultimate confidence region that is not well demonstrated and indicates where there is potential for changing a specific component’s confidence region, therefore providing information for decisions on emphasis—either for demonstrating performance or for focusing on further studies. The U.S. Yucca Mountain Site Characterization Project (YMP), wherein Yucca Mountain is being investigated as a potential site for a nuclear waste repository, and the Swedish geologic repository studies are used as examples of this tool.
  • Content Notes:
    Paper prepared for: American Nuclear Society

    International Conference on Future Nuclear Systems, Jackson, WY, August 29-September 3, 1999

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