NRC renews contract for waste support centre

05 April 2018

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has renewed its contract with Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) to operate the Center for Nuclear Waste Regulatory Analyses (CNWRA). The five-year contract is valued at up to USD52 million.

The contract - which includes a one-year base period and four one-year option periods - provides continuing technical assistance and research support to NRC activities related to storage, transportation, possible reprocessing and ultimate geological disposal of used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive wastes.

The CNWRA is a federally-funded research and development centre that was established in 1987 by the NRC. The initial purpose of the CNWRA was to support licensing and regulatory oversight of the potential high-level radioactive waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Over the past 30 years, the scope of the CNWRA support has grown to provide technical and programmatic assistance to the NRC staff and their agency's mission to protect public health and safety, and the environment.

SwRI operates CNWRA facilities in San Antonio, Texas, and Rockville, Maryland. Beyond its primary mission of supporting the NRC, CNWRA conducts independent research and peer reviews related to radioactive waste management for foreign governments and regulatory agencies around the world.

CNWRA expertise includes environmental evaluations, fire protection engineering, hazard assessments, materials degradation and aging management. The centre provides performance and probabilistic risk assessments, risk-informed licence review and site characterisation. It also supports public outreach and stakeholder engagement associated with rule-making and licensing activities.

SwRI President and CEO Adam Hamilton said, "SwRI is proud that our CNWRA operations support the NRC in its mission to protect public health and safety. Our staff members have expertise spanning the environmental, geological and materials sciences, as well as the engineering disciplines needed to evaluate safety and environmental compliance of nuclear facilities."

The US Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 established federal responsibility for all civil used nuclear fuel and obliged the government to begin removing used fuel from nuclear facilities by 1998 for disposal in a federal facility. Yucca Mountain, in Nevada, was in 1987 designated as the sole site for the repository.

The Department of Energy submitted a construction licence application for the Yucca Mountain repository to the NRC in 2008, but following 2009's presidential elections the Obama administration subsequently decided to abort the project, appointing a high-level Blue Ribbon Commission to come up with alternative strategies. The NRC terminated licensing activities for Yucca Mountain in 2011, but in August 2013 was ordered to resume work on its technical and environmental reviews of the application by the US Court of Appeals.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News