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US DOE (OCRWM)

The mission of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM)is to manage and dispose of the Nation’s military and civilian high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel in a manner that protects the health and safety of the public without harming the environment.

A brief history of the Department of Energy's Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management

In the mid-1950s, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) considered the disposal of defense-related high-level radioactive waste and recommended salt as a potentially suitable host rock for geologic disposal. In 1957, the NAS concluded that radioactive wastes could be disposed of safely in a variety of geologic media within the United States. The NAS noted, however, the technical and institutional uncertainties involved in implementing a geologic repository strategy, and assumed that significant research would be necessary and substantial costs incurred before a final conclusion could be reached on the feasibility, reliability, and safety of geologic disposal. At the same time, preliminary nationwide screening for suitable repository sites began and resulted in the identification of four large potentially suitable regions underlain by rock salt:

• The salt domes of the Gulf Coastal Plain in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

• Bedded salt in the Paradox Basin of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.

• Bedded salt in the Permian Basin of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico.

• Bedded salt in the Michigan and Appalachian Basins of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.

In 1970, the Atomic Energy Commission proposed the salt deposits near Lyons, Kansas for a permanent repository. This proposal was abandoned two years later for political and technical reasons. Following the failure of the Lyons siting proposal, the Energy Research and Development Administration proposed the development of a retrievable surface storage facility at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, in the State of Washington. However, this proposal was also dropped amid concerns it would defer geologic disposal efforts. The rest of the story (pdf file)


OCRWM was established in 1982 under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. The OCRWM Program Director reports to Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman. The OCRWM Program includes:

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  • Program Management – Program management activities are administered from Washington, DC. Responsibilities include oversight of quality assurance, program planning and administration, program management and integration, external interactions, human resources, and the OCRWM budget.

  • Yucca Mountain Project – The Yucca Mountain site is located in Nye County, Nevada, approximately 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. For two decades, the OCRWM conducted scientific and engineering investigations at Yucca Mountain to determine its suitability as a nuclear waste repository.

  • Science and Technology Program – The program explores technological improvements that could enhance the performance, safety, and efficiency of the repository at Yucca Mountain, and/or reduce the costs of the civilian radioactive waste management system.
  • Waste Acceptance and Transportation – Headquartered in Washington, DC., responsibilities include development of waste acceptance, storage and transportation systems. Activities also include interactions with other waste owners, generators and international waste management programs.

Key Program and Milestone Documents

License Application

The DOE has submitted a license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The license application consists of a letter describing its purpose, accompanied by attachments that contain general information and a safety analysis report.

    • The general information portion of the application will provide an overview of the repository's engineering design concept and will describe the natural features of the site.
    • The safety analysis report (the main technical document in the licensing process) will demonstrate how the repository can be constructed, operated, and closed in a manner that protects public and worker health and safety and preserves the quality of the environment.

The NRC is the licensing and regulatory agency that will make the final decision on whether the DOE is allowed to proceed with construction and subsequent licensing to operate the repository.

Environmental Impact Statements

Environmental Impact Statements

Peer Review Documents

Total System Performance Assessment

Igneous Consequences

Waste Package Materials Performance