US DOE awards key Yucca contract

6 November 2008

The detailed design and engineering of the USA’s Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository is to be completed by an international team led by USA Repository Services (USA-RS) under a $2.5 billion contract awarded by the US Department of Energy (DOE).

The performance-based management and operation (M&O) contract brings the controversial Yucca facility – whose total lifecycle costs are estimated to be over $96 billion – a step closer to reality.

The USA-RS team includes Shaw Environmental and Infrastructure Inc. and Areva Federal Services. Together the companies will help complete the design of the repository as well as operate the site.

The contract will run for an initial five-year period and has a potential five-year option period. If fully exercised, the contract will continue through to March 2019.

USA-RS, a division of USA Repository Services LLC, will be responsible for completing the detailed design of the nuclear waste repository, defending and updating a license application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), operating Yucca Mountain facilities prior to the NRC's Construction Authorization, and supporting construction management and operation of the Yucca Mountain repository.

France-based Areva says that its principal contribution to the project will be in the surface facility design and to lend its expertise in the license review process.

Earlier this year the DOE submitted a license application for the Yucca waste repository to the NRC. The facility could in theory begin receiving waste in 2017, according to the DOE’s best-achievable schedule.

Yucca Mountain was approved in 2002 to be the USA’s first permanent spent nuclear fuel storage repository. Waste is currently stored at 121 separate sites around the country and the expected increase in nuclear power generating capacity means that a permanent waste storage site is required, says the DOE.

“If we are to meet growing energy demand and slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, nuclear power must be a larger part of our energy mix,” said secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman. “This contract will enable our national repository programme to move forward by securing the necessary management and operations expertise needed as we begin the Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing proceedings.”

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