Why GAO Did This Study
Spent nuclear fuel, the used fuel removed from commercial nuclear power reactors, is one of the most hazardous substances created by humans. Commercial reactors have generated nearly 70,000 metric tons of spent fuel, which is currently stored at 75 reactor sites in 33 states, and this inventory is expected to more than double by 2055. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, as amended, directs DOE to investigate the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada--100 miles northwest of Las Vegas--to determine if the site is suitable for a permanent repository for this and other nuclear waste. DOE submitted a license application for the Yucca Mountain site to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2008, but in 2010 DOE suspended its licensing efforts and instead established a blue ribbon commission to study other options. The commission issued a report in January 2012 recommending a new strategy for managing nuclear waste, and DOE issued a new nuclear waste disposal strategy in 2013.
This testimony is primarily based on prior work GAO issued from November 2009 to August 2012 and updated with information from DOE. It discusses the key attributes and challenges of options that have been considered for storage or disposal of spent nuclear fuel.
GAO is making no new recommendations at this time.