In its September 1995 analysis of the total system life-cycle cost (TSLCC) of the civilian radioactive waste program, the US Department of Energy (DOE) describes its assumptions regarding waste management strategy--the inventory, the transportation requirements, the schedule for disposal. However, DOE's report does not describe its costing procedures or cost factors, or the rationale for the costing procedures and factors.

This section describes at a general level the waste management assumptions and cost analysis procedures and cost factors used in an independent assessment of total system cost. We discuss the inventory requiring permanent disposal; the strategy for managing the waste inventory; the types of costs required by the waste management strategy; the schedules for storage, pickup and emplacement which determine cost streams over time; and the key cost analysis procedures used in this assessment.

Throughout the independent assessment we have used the "best available" input data and cost assumptions. Much of the input data comes from DOE, and we have made particular efforts to locate and obtain the most recent DOE data available. Many of the cost assumptions come from nuclear industry sources or construction industry standards. Supplementary inquiries have been conducted to provide a basis for estimates of project and program management costs, additional PETT payments, and numerous other factors.


This assessment divides the inventory requiring permanent disposal in a geologic repository into three broad categories:

  a)   Current and projected inventories of spent nuclear fuel stored at commercial reactor sites. This category includes all discharges of spent fuel assemblies from commercial reactors, less those which for various reasons have been shipped to other sites such as Morris (IL), West Valley (NY), and the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL)--i.e., the broad category of SNF for which utilities expected the federal government to begin taking responsibility on January 31, 1998.
  b) Current and projected inventories of spent nuclear fuel at other sites--chiefly federal government sites, but also private sites such as the Morris facility and various universities with research reactors. The inventories include SNF from commercial reactors (e.g., Three Mile Island, Cooper Station, Dresden) which has been shipped offsite (e.g., to INEEL, Morris, West Valley), SNF from Navy and foreign research reactors which will be shipped to INEEL and the Savannah River Site (SRS) for storage while awaiting shipment to Yucca Mountain for disposal, and SNF generated at defense reactors--chiefly Hanford. In the que for DOE pickup, this category has second priority (in this assessment) to spent fuel stored at commercial reactor sites.
  c) Projected HLW, which will be vitrified and canistered at four defense sites (Hanford, Savannah River, INEEL and West Valley) before being shipped(15) to Nevada for permanent disposal at Yucca Mountain.

Current (1995) Discharges of SNF

This study included an assessment of spent fuel discharges through 1995, identifying the date, origin, current location, metric tons uranium (MTU) and assemblies of each discharge, and distinguishing discharges currently located at reactor sites (inventory group "a" above) from those at other sites (group "b"). At the end of 1995, 1,275 discharges totaling 31,747 MTU in 111,015 assemblies were stored at commercial reactor sites (inventory group "a"). Another 850 MTU originated at commercial reactors but had been shipped for storage at other sites (e.g., Morris, INEEL, West Valley); these form part of inventory group "b" in the current assessment.

Projected Discharges (1996+) from Commercial Reactors

This study also included an assessment of projected spent fuel discharges from currently operating commercial nuclear reactors, through the end of their license term. Projected discharges are consistent with those presented in DOE's most recent projection of spent fuel storage requirements.(16) However, adjustments were made in the early projection years to account for actual discharges in 1994 and 1995, which are projection years in the DOE study. Also a random number method was used to prioritize projected discharges within a given year. Finally, projected discharges from four reactors included in the DOE projections (TVA's Bellefonte 1&2 and Watts Bar 1&2) were removed from this assessment--reflecting a judgement that, though NRC construction permits had been issued, these plants would not have commercial operation. Thus, inventory group "a" in this assessment reflects a no-new-orders, modified end-of-license-term projection of spent fuel discharges from commercial nuclear reactors.

The projected spent fuel discharges after 1995 total 50,598 MTU. Combined with the 31,747 MTU currently stored at commercial reactor sites, the total inventory in group "a" is estimated at 82,345 MTU. This is SNF which is or will be stored at commercial reactor sites, and which(17) is the focus of the federal government's obligations for interim storage and pickup under the Northern States Power et al versus USDOE court decision of November 14, 1997.

Spent Nuclear Fuel Not Located at Commercial Reactor Sites

Regarding inventory group "b", this study included an assessment of current and projected spent fuel not located at commercial reactor sites. One component in this group is SNF which originated at commercial reactors but which has since been shipped for storage at other sites such as Morris, West Valley, and INEEL. As mentioned, this component totals 850 MTU.(18) Another component is spent fuel discharges from DOE weapons reactors, Navy reactors, foreign research reactors and other fuel in the DOE/DOD complex. This fuel, which totals 2,666.5 MTU, has been grouped according to the probable locations from which it would be shipped to Yucca Mountain.

Combining both components, inventory group "b" includes 3,516.5 MTU (roughly similar to the spent fuel expected to be discharged from six BWR reactors.)(19) which would be shipped to Yucca Mountain from Hanford (2,132 MTU), INEEL (325 MTU), SRS (214 MTU), Morris (674 MTU), West Valley (147 MTU), or other sites (24 MTU).

High-Level Waste at Four Defense Sites

Highly-radioactive wastes have accumulated at DOE defense sites (particularly Hanford, INEEL and Savannah River) in liquid, sludge, salt cake, slurry, calcine, capsule and other forms. DOE intends to stabilize these wastes in glass columns about 2 feet in diameter and 10 to 15 feet in length. The glass will then be canistered for storage onsite until it can be transported (beginning in 2015(20)) to Nevada for permanent disposal. This assessment assumes that 19,234 canisters of HLW will be produced.(21)


Any estimate of total systems cost must reflect assumptions regarding how the current and projected inventory will be managed. The assumptions used in this assessment reflect current legislative proposals (primarily Senate Bill 104 and House Bill 1270), recent court decisions (e.g., Northern States Power et al versus USDOE, November 14, 1997), and DOE policies. The question posed is, what is the likely cost of a program which attempts to implement the directives in proposed legislation and the conclusions of recent court decisions? Some of the key waste management assumptions (which are summarized and compared with those of DOE's 9/95 TSLCC in Figure 5) include:

Figure 5. Waste Management Assumptions: Comparison

|                    |                                                 |                                         |
|                    | DOE TSLCC: 9/95                                 | INDEP ASSESS: 1/98|                     |
|                    |                                                 |                                         |
|# PERMANENT         | Single repository for all SNF & HLW.            | Same                                    |
|REPOSITORIES        | Exceed 70,000 MTU limit for repos #1            | Same                                    |
|                    |                                                 |                                         |
|INTERIM STORAGE     | No monitored retrievable or centralized         | Central storage facility at NTS Area 25.|
|                    |    storage facility.                            | SNF stored at reactor sites (at shared  |
|                    | SNF stored at reactor sites (at utility expense |    NWF/utility expense) until shipped   |
|                    |    until shipped to YM, beginning 2010.         |    to YM, beginning 2003.               |
|                    |                                                 |                                         |
|DOE PICKUP: SNF     | Begins in 2010 & extends through 2040:          | Begins in 2003 & extends through 2033:  |
|                    | Year 1:            300 MTU                      | Year 1:            1,211 MTU            |
|                    | Year 2:            600 MTU                      | Year 2:            1,215 MTU            |
|                    | Year 3:            1,200 MTU                    | Year 3:            2,025 MTU            |
|                    | Year 4:            2,000 MTU                    | Year 4:            2,011 MTU            |
|                    | Year 5:            3,000 MTU                    | Year 5             2,704 MTU            |
|                    | Year 6-30:         3,000 MTU I                  | Year 6-30:         3,021 MTU(Avg)       |
|                    | Year 31:           1,854 MTU                    | Year 31:           1,179 MTU            |
|                    |                                                 |                                         |
|DOE PICKUP: HLW     | Begins in 2015 & extends through 2040:          | Begins in 2015 & extends through 2040:  |
|                    | Year 1-23          750 canisters                | Year 1-23           750 canisters       |
|                    | Year 24:           175 canisters                | Year 24:            750 canisters       |
|                    | Year 25:           345 canisters                | Year 25:            750 canisters       |
|                    | Year 26:           576 canisters                | Yesr 26             484 canisters       |
|                    |                                                 |                                         |
|INVENTORY           | SNF:    83,954 MTU                              | SNF:    85,861 MTU                      |
|                    |                                                 |         82,345 Comm reactor sites       |
|                    |                                                 |         3,517 DOE & other               |
|                    | HLW:    18,346 Canisters                        | HLW     19,234 Canisters                |
|                    |                                                 |                                         |
|INTERIM STORAGE/    | SNF is packaged & emplaced as received at       | Same                                    |
|PERMANENT DISPOSAL  | the YM repository                               |                                         |
|                    |                                                 |                                         |
|NWF OBLIGATIONS:    |                                                 |                                         |
| Inventory          | Commercial                                      | SNF at commercial sites                 |
| Waste Mgt Activ    |                                                 |                                         |
|  Interim strg      | Not Applic                                      | Shared re pickup start and rate         |
|  X-ctry transp     | Yes, re SNF %                                   | Yes, re SNF %                           |
|  Nevada transp     | Yes, re SNF %                                   | Yes, re SNF %                           |
|  Central strg      | Not Applic                                      | Yes, re SNF %                           |
|  Repository        | Yes, re SNF %                                   | Yes, re SNF %                           |
|  Program mgt.      | Yes. re SNF %                                   | Yes. re SNF %                           |
|                    |                                                 |                                         |
|NEVADA TRANSP:      |                                                 |                                         |
| Intermodal Transf  | Not Applic                                      | Yes, by 2003                            |
| Heavy-Haul Rail    | Not Applic                                      | Yes, 2003-2008                          |
| Rail Spur          | Yes 2010+,______miles                           | Yec 2008+, 365 miles                    |
|                    |                                                 |                                         |
|TRANSP CASKS:       |                                                 |                                         |
| Rail               | MPC @ 125/75 tons, as req.                      | Same                                    |
| Hwy                | High-capacity LWT cask. as req.                 | Same                                    |
|                    |                                                 |                                         |
|TRANSP CHOICES:     | Reactor Facilities               Cask Shipments | Sites               Cask Shipments      |
|LWT: Comm SNF in Que|         4                            1,441      |     26                14,769            |
|     Other SNF      |                                                 |      4*                2,151            |
| Small rail         |         23                           4,216      |     19                 5,382            |
| Large rail         |         92                           9,189      |     28                 4,256            |
| HLW rail           |                                                 |      4                 3,847            |
| Sub-total          |        119                          14,846      |     81                30,405            |
|                                                                                                                |
|*  Multiple sites, grouped to 4 for analysis                                                                    |
|Note:  Some numbers mav not add due to rounding                                                                 |

A Single Repository for All SNF and HLW

Our assessment assumes that all current and projected SNF and HLW is emplaced in a single repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Implicitly, we assume that Section 114(d) of the NWPA would be changed to authorize DOE to exceed the 70,000 MTU limit for the first repository.(22) DOE's 9/95 TSLCC makes similar assumptions.

Previous DOE TSLCC assessments have assumed that the first repository would accommodate 62,907 MTU of SNF and 7,093 MTU of HLW.(23) Under our assumptions, about 22,954 MTU of SNF and about 40,984 MTU of vitrified HLW that would (under provisions of NWPA Section 114d) be stored in a second repository would instead be disposed at Yucca Mountain.(24)

A Centralized Storage Facility at NTS Area 25

Our assessment assumes that a centralized storage facility, with capacity to store all SNF accepted and not yet emplaced, would be developed at Area 25 of the NTS. Implicitly, we assume that legislation would override the provisions of the NWPA that interim and permanent facilities should not be in the same state (Section 141(g)) and that the permanent facility must be authorized for construction before an interim facility can be authorized at all (Section 148(d)(1)).

DOE's 9/95 TSLCC, adhering to the provisions of the 1987 Amendments to the NWPA, assumes no Monitored Retrievable Storage or centralized storage facility. Implicitly, it assumes that SNF will be stored at reactor sites (at utility expense) until shipped to Yucca Mountain for permanent disposal.

Early and Rapid DOE Pickup from Commercial Sites

Proposed legislation would require DOE pickup from commercial sites to begin in 2002 or 2003 (at 1,200 MTU) and rapidly increase (1,200 MTU in year two, 2,000 MTU in year three, 2,700 MTU in year four) to a plateau level of 3,000 MTU per year. Our assessment assumes that operation of a central storage facility begins in 2003, and that thereafter DOE pickup from commercial sites proceeds as specified in proposed legislation.

DOE's 9/95 TSLCC assumes that DOE pickup from commercial sites begins in 2010 (at 300 MTU) and increases gradually (600 MTU in year two, 1,200 MTU in year three, 2,000 MTU in year four) to a plateau level of 3,000 MTU, which extends to 2040. Our analysis accepts DOE's 9/95 assumption that pickup of HLW from four defense sites begins in 2015 and extends (at a plateau rate of 750 canister shipments per year) until all canisters have been removed to Nevada.

Intermodal Transfer and Heavy-Haul

There is currently no rail link to Yucca Mountain. Our assessment assumes that the development of a long rail spur would begin in FY 2002 and would require at least five years. Furthermore, shipment of the volumes anticipated entirely on public highways is assumed to be unacceptable. Therefore, our assessment, consistent with proposed legislation, assumes that early shipment requires an intermodal transfer facility at Caliente and heavy-haul operation on Nevada's public highways. We further assume that heavy-haul through Las Vegas or across the NTS is infeasible; therefore, heavy-haul shipments are routed north of the Nellis Air Force Range to Tonopah, then south along US 95 to Yucca Mountain.

DOE's 9/95 TSLCC assumes that shipments begin in 2010, by which time a rail spur to Yucca Mountain would be available. Under these waste management assumptions, rail shipments would not require heavy-haul in Nevada to reach Yucca Mountain.

Central Storage at NTS Area 25

Consistent with provisions of proposed legislation (HR-1270), our assessment assumes that, as SNF is received in Nevada (beginning in 2003), it would be stored above-ground at a centralized facility at NTS Area 25 until the repository is ready for operation in 2010. We further assume that SNF which arrives uncanistered (by legal-weight truck) will be stored in metal casks, while SNF which arrives in dual-purpose canisters (by rail/heavy-haul) will be placed in concrete storage facilities.

DOE's 9/95 TSLCC assumes that SNF and HLW is packaged and emplaced (for permanent disposal) as it is received at the Yucca Mountain repository, which is assumed to begin operation in 2010.

Federal Government Obligation for Onsite Storage at Commercial Reactor Sites

As a result of the November 14, 1997 court decision in Northern States Power et al versus USDOE (and follow-on litigation to specify the implications of that decision), our assessment assumes that the federal government will have a financial obligation for continued onsite storage of SNF after it would have been picked up under an oldest-fuel-first priority ranking beginning in 1998. A calculation of the annual inventory at each site under the two cases (pickup beginning in 1998 and proceeding at S-104 rates versus pickup beginning in 2003) provides the basis for calculation of the federal government and NWF obligation for extended onsite storage at commercial reactor sites.

DOE's 9/95 TSLCC implicitly assumes that the federal government has no obligation for onsite storage of SNF at commercial reactor sites--even though pickup would not begin until 2010.

Canisters and Casks for Storage and Transportation

Our assessment assumes that a dual-purpose canister system for rail shipments (and storage onsite and/or at a centralized facility) would be made available. But utilities are under no obligation to use it in onsite dry storage, and, as long as early shipment is a prospect, may not, given the circumstances at particular reactor sites, have a financial incentive to do so. We have analyzed the circumstances at 77 sending sites and identified 16 which appear to have a financial incentive to use dual-purpose canisters for onsite storage in a program in which pickup begins in 2003. While a high-capacity LWT cask is currently not certified, we assume that such a cask would be made available in order to reduce (by a factor of four) the number of cask shipments on public highways.

DOE's 9/95 TSLCC assumes that a multiple-purpose canister system is developed by DOE and certified by NRC, as is the high-capacity cask for legal-weight truck shipment of uncanistered SNF. It further assumes that these federally-developed systems are used in preference to other storage/transportation systems.

Transportation Mode and Cask Choices

Based on a review of pool loading capabilities (e.g., operating crane capacity, cask set-down area, pool depth) at commercial reactor sites, our assessment assumes that as many as 26 sites (36 percent) will choose to ship by legal-weight truck. Utilities have no financial incentive to upgrade pool loading capabilities merely to facilitate rail shipment rather than shipment by LWT, which is legal under USDOT regulation.

Though DOE has made no commitment to transport rail casks by dedicated train, and has a long-standing challenge to rail carrier estimates of the cost of dedicated train shipment, we assume that SNF mixed with general rail freight would be unacceptable, and that dedicated trains would be used for all rail shipment.

DOE's 9/95 TSLCC assumes that, of 119 reactor facilities, only 4 (3.4 percent will ship by legal-weight truck. Further "all SNF rail shipments are assumed to be made by dedicated train."(25)


The waste management assumptions described above require an analysis of total system cost in seven major categories, several of which have not been addressed in previous DOE TSLCC assessments.

Extended Onsite Storage (Master Code 1.0)

This assessment estimated the costs of extended onsite storage for 73 commercial reactor sites (master code 1.1), assuming DOE pickup beginning in 2003 rather than in 1998. Onsite storage costs include: the costs of dry storage for SNF discharges in excess of current pool capacity, the cost of operating spent fuel pools as interim storage facilities after shutdown of their associated reactors, and the cost of limited upgrades of pool loading capabilities to accommodate casks of a specified type, size and weight.(26)

This category also includes the costs of extended onsite storage of SNF not stored at commercial reactor sites (master code 1.2). For this analysis, multiple sites (Morris, Ft. St. Vrain, West Valley, DOE defense sites, university research reactors) are combined into four, and inventory estimates in MTU are translated into BTU assembly equivalents. The analysis assumes all such costs are supported by defense appropriations, except for those at Morris.

HLW at four defense sites will require vitrification, canistering and onsite storage while awaiting shipment to Yucca Mountain (master code 1.3). However, such costs are assumed to be the responsibility of the DOE Office of Environmental Restoration and Waste Management, not DOE/OCRWM.

Cross-Country Transportation (Master Code 2.0)

Cross-country transportation includes the cost of high-capacity casks for LWT shipment of uncanistered SNF and the cost of rail casks for shipment of canistered SNF or HLW; the cost of trailers for LWT shipment and cask and buffer cars for rail shipment; the cost of operating, maintaining, replacing and decommissioning this equipment; the carrier, escort and inspection costs for LWT and rail shipments; and the cost of heavy-haul to a nearby railhead for rail shipment from sites which do not or no longer have a rail spur. These costs are estimated for transportation of commercial SNF stored at commercial reactor sites (master code 2.1), other SNF (master code 2.2), and HLW (master code 2.3).

Also included in cross-country transportation is an estimate of the costs of technical assistance training required of DOE/OCRWM under NWPA Section 180(c) (master code 2.4)

Nevada Transportation (Master Code 3.0)

Cross-country transportation includes the cost of LWT shipment to Yucca Mountain, and of rail shipment to Caliente (NV). Nevada transportation includes the costs of moving rail casks from Caliente to the central storage facility at NTS Area 25 or the geologic repository at Yucca Mountain. These include the cost of an intermodal transfer facility at Caliente (master code 3.1), a heavy-haul operation between Caliente and the central storage facility (master code 3.2), and the construction and operation of a government-owned rail spur between Caliente and Yucca Mountain (master code 3.3).

The Centralized Storage Facility (Master Code 4.0)

The costs of a centralized storage facility at NTS Area 25 include: the costs of designing and licensing such a facility (master code 4.1), the costs of site development and facility construction (master code 4.2), the costs of storage equipment (master code 4.3) and of facility operations (master code 4.4). The costs of storage equipment include the costs of metal casks for SNF arriving uncanistered by LWT and concrete storage for SNF arriving by rail in dual-purpose canisters. Storage equipment also includes the cost of dual-purpose canisters for rail shipments from 31 reactor sites at which onsite storage has used pools or dry-storage in storage-only canisters. The estimates reflect the projected inventory at the CSF, considering both the flows of SNF shipped to Nevada and those emplaced for permanent geologic disposal.

The Geologic Repository (Master Code 5.0)

Repository costs include the actual expenditure for "first repository" development and evaluation through FY 1996, and the costs of completing site characterization at Yucca Mountain (master code 5.1), the design and license application costs at Yucca Mountain (master code 5.2); the cost of constructing, equipping and operating surface facilities (master code 5.3) and underground facilities (master code 5.4); and the cost of about 11,000 waste containers for emplacement of 85,861 MTU of SNF (master code 5.5).

Other Development and Evaluation Costs (Master Code 6.1)

Other development and evaluation costs include fees paid to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (master code 6.1), and support for the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (master code 6.2). These costs are not independently estimated. Estimates from the DOE 9/95 TSLCC (converted to FY'96$) are applied in this assessment.

Other Program Costs (Master Code 7.0)

Other program costs include payments equal to taxes (master code 7.1) and benefits (master code 7.2) as provided for under NWPA Sections 116(c)(3) and 170-171. Estimates from the DOE 9/95 TSLCC (converted to FY'96 $) are applied in this assessment. However, an estimate of additional PETT related to components not included in the current DOE program (Nevada transportation and centralized storage) is included, based on the construction and major equipment costs of these facilities.

Contingency Costs

Continency costs are estimated as a percentage of direct costs in the categories above. A review of projected costs in the DOE 9/95 TSLCC was conducted, relating contingency to base costs for various cost elements. The results were used as points of reference for estimating contingency costs in this assessment. A 15 percent contingency factor was used for onsite storage, cross-country transportation and the intermodal transfer portion of Nevada transportation. A 20 percent contingency factor was used for the heavy-haul and rail spur portions of Nevada transportation and for repository costs other than site characterization. Lower contingency factors were used for the completion of Yucca Mountain site characterization and for other development and evaluation and program costs. Overall in this assessment, contingency comprises 11.0 percent of total projected costs, and 16.3 percent of direct costs.(27)

Contingency addresses the potential for complications in the implementation of the program components as described--complications in scheduling, meeting state-local and federal regulations, construction, procurement or hiring. As applied in this assessment, contingency does not address the major uncertainties in the program--e.g., the potential for major accidents,(28) special construction problems, unanticipated licensing requirements, etc. Such uncertainties are discussed in section 2.2 of this report.

Project Management Costs

This study included an assessment of project and program management costs in the DOE/OCRWM program in fiscal years 1988-1996. Using annual reports of DOE/OCRWM expenditures, selected budget and reporting codes were identified as "project" or "program" management, and tabulated for the relevant fiscal years, thus dividing total costs into three broad categories--direct costs, project management costs, and program management costs. Distinct from program management, which involves overall direction of the DOE/OCRWM program, "project management" is the management of specific activities for which direct costs have been estimated. This tabulation suggests that project management comprised 24.1 percent of direct costs over the nine-year period FY 1988-96, and 23.9 percent over the most recent five-year period FY 1992-96. Project management costs in the Yucca Mountain project (B&R category 1.2) have been higher than in the DOE/OCRWM program overall--31.2 percent in the FY 1988-96 period, and 28.3 percent in the FY 1992-96 period.

The above analysis was used as a point of reference in estimating project management costs associated with projected direct expenditure. In most categories, project management is estimated at 15 percent of direct costs plus one-third of contingency costs. In some categories (e.g, technical assistance training (master code 2.4), site characterization (master code 5.1.1), other development and evaluation (master code 6.0), and other program (master code 7.0) costs, project management is assumed to have been included in direct costs. Overall in this assessment, project management comprises 9.2 percent of total projected costs, and 13.6 percent of direct costs.

Program Management

The assessment described above also estimated program management costs in the DOE/OCRWM program, representing these as a percentage of all other (direct and project management) costs. Generally but not exclusively or necessarily conducted at DOE's headquarters in Washington, program management involves the overall direction, advocacy, coordination and financial management of the DOE/OCRWM program. The assessment suggests that program management costs comprised 8.3 percent of all other costs over the nine-year period FY 1988-96, and 15.1 percent over the more recent five-year period FY 1992-96.

The analysis of recent DOE/OCRWM expenditure was used as a point of reference in estimating program management costs associated with other projected expenditure. In most cost categories, program management was estimated at 15 percent of the subtotal of direct, contingency and project management. Overall, program management comprises 12.5 percent of total projected costs, and 14.2 percent of the direct, contingency and project management cost sub-total.


Several schedules must mesh in a national waste management program--the schedules by which spent fuel is discharged from nuclear reactors (or HLW vitrified and canistered at DOE defense sites) and stored onsite while awaiting pickup, the start date and rate of DOE pickup of SNF and HLW for transport to the central storage facility or repository, and the rate at which SNF and HLW is emplaced in the geologic repository. These rates determine the inventory in onsite storage, the inventory in transit, the inventory in centralized above-ground storage, and the inventory emplaced in each year of the waste management program. These inventories, or their year-to-year changes, drive the cost streams in this assessment. The inventory assumptions are discussed in section 3.1, above. This section discusses the schedules for DOE pickup and emplacement.

Priority for Pickup of SNF

DOE pickup from commercial reactor sites is estimated on an oldest-fuel-first basis,(29) using the overall acceptance rates specified in currently proposed legislation, and summing for all storage locations at a particular site. This results in different pickup schedules at each commercial reactor site--depending on the start of commercial operations and the rate of discharges at each reactor relative to others across the nation. Thus, for example, pickup at Big Rock Point, which began commercial operation in March 1963, would start in year 1, while pickup at Callaway (commercial operations: December 1984) would begin in year 7, and pickup at Braidwood (commercial operations: July 1988) would begin in year 9.

Pickup Start Date and Schedule

If pickup begins in 2003 as assumed in this assessment, and proceeds at rates specified in current legislation (at least 1,200 MTU in years one and two, at least 2,000 MTU in year three, etc.), 81,683 MTU will have been picked up through 2031 (year 29 of the acceptance and transportation program). This assessment assumes that the remaining SNF at commercial reactor sites (662 MTU) would be picked up in 2032,(30) along with 2,338 MTU of SNF stored elsewhere. The remaining SNF not stored at reactor sites would be picked up in 2033.

Consistent with DOE assumptions in its 9/95 TSLCC, this assessment assumes that pickup of HLW begins in 2015 and proceeds at 750 canisters annually until all are removed from their current storage sites. At this rate, shipment of currently projected HLW canisters would extend through 2040.

This assessment prioritizes pickup of HLW based on the cumulative production and storage of canisters at each site (Hanford, INEEL, Savannah River, West Valley). This prioritization may not meet the terms of agreements between DOE and the host states for its facilities. For example, canister production at INEEL is projected (IDB December 1996) to extend through 2035 and pickup would extend through 2040.

Implications for Reactor Sites

This assessment assumes that a central storage facility at the NTS (and the associated intermodal transfer facility at Caliente and heavy-haul around Nellis Air Force Range) begin operation in FY 2003, not in 1998 when the federal government obligations for commercial waste management begin. For example, given the priority of its discharges, the Beaver Valley site can expect pickup of 16.1 MTU in year four, 48.7 MTU in year five, and 35.2 MTU in year six--that is, 2006, 2007, and 2008 assuming DOE's first pickup year is 2003.

Implications for the Nuclear Waste Fund

In a November 14, 1997 decision, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concluded in Northern States Power et al versus USDOE that the federal government has an obligation under the standard contract (NWPA Section 302) to remediate utility costs attributable to delays in pickup start date or shortfalls in pickup rates. However, it declined to specify the remedy until delays actually begin, and it did not determine whether the costs of delay would be drawn from the Nuclear Waste Fund or from some other source such as the general fund.

In the absence of a court-approved formula, this assessment allocated the costs of delay based on an estimate of the projected inventory at each site (assuming pickup beginning in 2003 and proceeding at S-104 rates) compared to the inventory had pickup begun in 1998. The percentage of the projected inventory which would have been picked up had pickup begun in 1998 is applied to subtotal of costs for dry storage, pool operations after reactor shutdown and pool loading upgrades. The resulting estimated costs of delay are assumed to be an obligation of the Nuclear Waste Fund.

The estimated NWF obligation for onsite storage costs varies by site and by year. Overall, the NWF obligation is about 52.2 percent of the direct costs of dry storage, pool operations after reactor shutdown and pool loading upgrades at commercial reactor sties. The percentage is higher for sites that ship by legal-weight truck and sites that ship by rail after dry storage in storage-only canisters than for sites that ship by rail after storage in dual-purpose canisters.


This assessment conducted a site-specific analysis for 73 commercial reactor sites, 4 sites(31) where DOE and other SNF is stored, and 4 HLW sites. The site-specific analysis estimates the annual inventory in pools and in dry storage; the DOE pickup from each site and the number of cask shipments by transportation mode and cask type; onsite storage costs (dry storage, pool operations after reactor shutdown, pool loading upgrades, additional dual-purpose canisters required for rail transport, and necessary heavy-haul to nearby rail heads); and the NWF obligation for onsite storage costs due to pickup delay. Site-by-site estimates of annual cask shipments (by transportation mode and cask type) provide the basis for estimates of transportation costs (cask shipment, escort and inspection; transportation cask and equipment purchases, operations and maintenance, and decommissioning), and (combined with assumptions regarding emplacement) the type, number and cost of storage equipment required at the central storage facility.

Site-by-Site Information

The following information was collected or developed for the reactors, pools and dry storage facilities at each site:

  • The current (1995) inventory in each pool (joined or shared pools were treated as a single wet storage location) and existing dry storage facility.

  • The projected additional discharges from each reactor to each pool. An analysis of the origin and storage location of SNF discharges through 1995 was used to allocate projected discharges from reactors to pools.

  • The license shutdown date of each reactor and its associated pool. Information from the NRC Information Digest (1996 Edition) was used; joined or shared pools received the latter shutdown date among the reactors served.

  • The maximum capacity (in assemblies ) of each pool, and the full core reserve to be added to that capacity upon shutdown of the associated reactor. This information was assembled from DOE's June 1995 projection of spent fuel storage requirements (DOE/RW-0431).

  • The operating cost of each pool during reactor operations and after reactor shutdown. In absence of reliable data which distinguishes the cost of reactor and pool operations, we applied an average annual cost for pool operations, adjusted for the size of PWR and BWR pools at individual sites.

  • The mode and cask for shipments from each storage location at each site. This study used the results of an assessment of "current capabilities" transportation choices published in July 1996.(32) (The second strategy option for onsite storage was associated with the "MPC Base Case" transportation choices developed in the same assessment.) As mentioned, under current capabilities transportation choices about 44 percent of storage locations ship by LWT, versus about 21 percent in the MPC base case assessment and 3.4 percent in DOE's September 1995 TSLCC.

  • Requirements to upgrade pool loading capabilities in order to ship casks of the specified type. These requirements were based on a review of data collected in DOE's 1990 Facility Infrastructure Capacity Assessment, and an assessment to relate loading capabilities to the dimensions and loaded weight of the high-capacity LWT cask and the small and large rail casks assumed for this assessment.

  • Requirements for heavy-haul to a nearby rail spur. The requirements were based on review of data collected in DOE's 1990 Near Site Transportation Infrastructure study, and an assessment to relate near-site infrastructure capabilities to transportation choices (i.e., rail or LWT) at each site.

  • The pickup schedule for spent fuel and HLW at each site, given a start date and pickup rate for all projected spent nuclear fuel stored at commercial reactor and other sites, as discussed in section 3.4, above


The Inventory Flow at Storage Sites

The information described above was applied in a model of inventory flow for each of 73 commercial reactor sites.(33) In the model:

  • Additional discharges (after 1995) from a reactor are stored in a designated pool until the pool capacity is reached. Discharges in excess of pool capacity require dry storage. It is assumed that dry storage could be provided at any site where it may be required, and would be provided to meet additional storage requirements in excess of pool capacity.

  • Two strategies for onsite storage are available for each site: The first option assumes that at least one pool is retained in operation for interim storage and that necessary dry storage uses storage-only canisters. Pickup is prioritized among spent fuel locations in such a way that a pool (rather than dry storage is the last storage facility at a site to shutdown). An operating pool is used to load all legal-weight truck or rail transportation casks.

    In the second onsite storage strategy option, pool inventories are moved to dry storage in the years after reactor shutdown, and dry storage uses dual-purpose canisters. Pickup is prioritized in such a way that pools shut down prior to dry storage facilities; dual-purpose canisters are loaded dry to rail transport casks.

  • In a preliminary run, the onsite storage costs for each option were compared for each site--given the assumptions for pickup start date, rate and priority in this scenario. The second option for onsite storage was assumed for 16 rail shipment sites for which onsite storage costs under option two are at least ten percent below those for option one. This assessment assumes that utilities select a strategy for onsite storage based on cost, given reasonably credible expectations for DOE pickup--not in order to facilitate a desirable overall plan for cross-country transportation or centralized storage, the costs for which are the obligation of the Nuclear Waste Fund, not individual utility ratebases.

Dry Storage Costs (Master Code 1.1.1, 1.2.1)

A May 1995 study by Energy Resources International, "Utility At-Reactor Spent Fuel Storage Requirements and Costs" estimated the costs of a 500 MTU dry storage facility operated over 20 years, considering the upfront, incremental, operating and decommissioning costs of such a facility. Total costs were estimated at 34 to 50 million, of which the incremental costs of metal storage canisters, concrete bunkers, loading and consumables comprise 60-65 percent.

Using the framework of the ERI study, an analysis was conducted to apply the results in a model of inventory flow which estimates the annual inventory requiring dry storage at a particular site.

  • Upfront costs (licensing, construction, equipment, engineering and startup testing) are incurred two years ahead of a projected need for additional dry storage. However, with the exception of equipment, all upfront costs are reduced by 25 to 33 percent for subsequent 500 MTU facilities that may be required at a particular site.

  • Incremental costs (storage-only canisters, concrete overpack, pad extensions, loading) are incurred with increases in the dry storage inventory at a particular site. The ERI estimate of incremental costs for a 500 MTU dry storage facility are apportioned among the total PWR or BWR assemblies that could be stored at such a facility, and applied in this assessment as the needs occur.

  • Annual operations costs (NRC fees, security, monitoring) are incurred in each year that a 500 MTU facility has inventory. For subsequent dry storage facilities that may be required at a particular site, operations costs are reduced 25 to 33 percent.

  • Decommissioning costs are estimated at 12.5 percent of the initial (incremental) cost of storage-only canisters, concrete overpack and pads--i.e., the elements likely to be radioactively contaminated. These costs are incurred in the year after the facility's shutdown.

  • Under the second option for dry storage at a rector site, the cost of canisters is increased by 50 percent to reflect the robust dual-purpose canister used, but the decommissioning costs attributable to storage-only canisters (about 12.5 percent of purchase costs under option 1) are eliminated as an on-site storage cost, since the dual-purpose canister would be used for transportation as well as on-site storage.

Pool Operations After Reactor Shutdown (Master Code 1.1.2, 1.2.2)

In this assessment, pool operations are an onsite storage cost only in years after reactor shutdown. Otherwise, pool operations are considered a cost of operating the associated reactor. Data which reliably distinguishes the cost of reactor operations from those of associated pools were not available to this study. Industry sources have estimated pool operations costs at $8.0 million annually after shutdown. This assessment assumes that the average annual cost of pool operations is $6.3 million, a cost which is adjusted for the size of PWR and BWR pools at various reactor sites.

Pool Loading Upgrades (Master Code 1.1.3)

Though the transportation choices assumed in this assessment conform to current pool loading capabilities at reactor sites, some improvements to operating crane capacity, cask set-down area or pool depth are nevertheless required at a few sites--based on the assessment of current conditions conducted in a recent transportation study.(34) Greater emphasis on rail over legal-weight truck transport, or on the use of large rail over small rail casks, would require greater investment to upgrade pool loading capabilities at more reactor sites.

Cask Shipment (Master Code 2.1.1, 2.2.1, 2.3.1)

Annual cask shipments by site and transportation mode/cask provide the basis for estimates of cask shipment miles and for truck or rail carrier costs, using revenues per ton-mile factors. Rail shipment miles are estimated based on default (least-time, using Class A railroads) routes from the origin site or the nearest railhead to Caliente. Highway shipment miles are based on the default (least-time, using interstate highways) routes from the origin site to Yucca Mountain. Each shipment includes a backhaul to the next pickup; backhaul milage is based on the average milage of one-way shipments for each cask type.

The tonnage includes the estimated weight of the loaded cask and its trailer or cask car, plus (in the case of rail shipments) the weight of buffer cars and ballast used in dedicated trains. The backhaul tonnage is adjusted for the weight of SNF or HLW removed at the central storage facility or repository. The revenues per ton-mile factors are based on an evaluation of information regarding the tonnage, revenue and average haul of general and hazmat rail and truck freight shipments received from the American Railroad Association and American Trucking Association. The rates for rail shipment used in this assessment are about five times general freight rates, and the rates for highway shipment are about three times general freight rates. These estimates may be conservatively low, given the special attention required in shipment of high-level radioactive waste, and the effects of dedicated train shipment on other freight traffic on Class A railroads.

Shipment Escort (Master Code 2.1.2, 2.2.2, 2.3.2)

This assessment assumes that each legal-weight truck cask shipment and each dedicated train is escorted. The costs are estimated on a per hour basis, considering the number of casks in the shipment and the average speed of the cross-country shipment.

Shipment Inspection (Master Code 2.1.3, 2.2.3, 2.3.3.)

This assessment assumes that each shipment is inspected twice--once en route at a designated crew change location or safe haven, and once on arrival at the central storage facility or repository in Nevada. Inspections include not only the casks but the shipment tackle, the truck trailers or rail cask cars, and the truck or locomotive. Inspection costs are estimated on a per inspection basis.

Transportation Cask and Equipment Purchases (Master Code 2.1.4, 2.2.4, 2.3.4)

This assessment assumes that casks and transportation equipment will be purchased for use exclusively in the shipment campaign. Purchases include transportation casks of the type and number required in a particular shipment year, the purchases of truck trailers and rail cask (or buffer) cars used in cross-country shipment, and the replacement of casks and equipment after 20 years--regardless of the level of use, but only if shipments continue to be made.

The requirement for casks-on-hand is the annual number of cask shipments of a particular type, divided by the annual number of round trips (turnover). We assume 15 round trips per year for all cask types, even though the particulars vary. (For example, the average one-way travel time is 49 hours for LWT shipments versus 83 hours for small rail and 93 hours for large rail shipments. The shipment preparation and/or inspection for a dedicated train might be greater than for a LWT shipment). The estimated costs for casks and equipment are drawn from sources in the nuclear industry.

Transportation Cask and Equipment Operations and Maintenance (Master Code 2.1.5, 2.2.5, 2.3.5)

Annual operations and maintenance costs are estimated as a percentage of the initial purchase costs, but are applied only to the extent that the cask and equipment is in use in a particular year. The annual use of the cask and equipment inventory is estimated by comparing cask shipments with fleet capacity. The cask shipment capacity of the fleet is estimated by multiplying the number of casks in the inventory by annual turnover. Cask shipments divided by fleet capacity gives the fleet capacity in use. Except for HLW shipments, which are assumed to proceed (from four defense sites), at a steady 750 canisters per year, annual variation in cask shipments reduces the fleet capacity in use to under 50 percent.

Transportation Cask and Equipment Decommissioning (Master Code 2.1.6, 2.2.6, 2.3.6)

Decommissioning costs are incurred as the casks and equipment go out of service and are estimated as a percentage of original purchase costs. Rail cask cars and truck trailers are assumed to have some salvage value which offsets the decommissioning costs of the casks themselves.

Heavy-Haul to Rail Head (Master Code 2.1.7)

Several sites which, under the assumptions used in this assessment, would choose onsite storage option two do not or no longer have an onsite rail spur. The cost of heavy-haul to a nearby railhead is estimated based on a cost per shipment plus a cost per ton-mile, and is assumed to be the obligation of the Nuclear Waste Fund.

Centralized Storage of SNF Arriving Uncanistered (Master Code 4.3.1)

This assessment assumes that SNF arriving uncanistered at the centralized storage facility is placed in metal casks for above-ground storage. The metal casks are assumed to be similar to the NAC ST cask, with capacity for 57 BWR or 27 PWR assemblies. The number of such casks required is based on the cumulative inventory arriving at the central storage facility by legal-weight truck, less the cumulative inventory emplaced (assuming the same emplacement rates for SNF which arrives at the CSF canistered or uncanistered). The cost for metal casks is estimated on a per cask basis, assuming no operation and maintenance cost, and a need to replace only five percent after 20 years.

Centralized Storage of SNF Arriving Canistered (Master Code 4.3.2)

This assessment assumes that SNF arriving in dual-purpose rail canisters is placed in concrete bunkers or vaults for centralized above-ground storage. The cost for construction and decommissioning of concrete storage facilities is estimated on a per assembly basis, using factors consistent with those used in estimates of the incremental costs of onsite dry storage.

Additional Canisters Required for Rail Shipment (Master Code 4.3.3)

Rail shipment sites which have (under onsite storage option one) used storage-only canisters or spent fuel pools for onsite dry storage require dual-purpose canisters for rail shipment. The cost of such canisters (consistent with the cost of those purchased for onsite dry storage) is incurred at pickup and is the obligation of the Nuclear Waste Fund.


Standard engineering analysis procedures were used to estimate the design, construction, equipment and operations costs of Nevada components of the DOE/OCRWM waste management program--intermodal transfer at Caliente, heavy-haul between Caliente and NTS Area 25, rail spur construction and operations between Caliente and Yucca Mountain, centralized storage at NTS Area 25, and geologic disposal. A design concept for each of these components was developed through review of DOE and other sources, then detailed in over 200 cost items, sub-items and elements. Each cost item or element was described or dimensioned, then costed in terms of units purchased at a specified unit cost. Unit costs were developed from standard construction and other industry sources. The allocation of item costs to years in which costs are incurred was based on the overall schedule for transport and emplacement assumed for this assessment and discussed in section 3.4, above.

Intermodal Transfer Facility (Master Code 3.1)

Thirty-five cost items and elements are considered in estimating the cost of constructing and operating an intermodal transfer facility at Caliente. Major items include the construction of a rail spur to the site and the construction of rail sidings (20 car capacity); the purchase of two switch engines; the installation of a 150-ton crane, the construction of a wastewater treatment plant (1,500 person capacity) for the town of Caliente;(35) and the construction of a truck service center. Over 40 percent of total systems cost for this component is the cost of staff, utilities and equipment maintenance over a 62-month operations period.

Heavy-Haul to NTS Area 25 (Master Code 3.2)

Twenty-four cost items and elements are considered in estimating the cost of heavy-haul from Caliente around the north and west sides of the Nellis Air Force Range to a central storage facility at NTS Area 25. Major costs include the construction of slow lanes (up and downgrade); the upgrading of existing road surface and selected road base and bridges; the purchase of major equipment for the heavy-haul operations (transporters, tractors, pusher trucks, escort vehicles, communications); and the consumables (tires, fuel, etc.) for the heavy-haul operation.

Rail Spur Construction and Operation (Master Code 3.3)

The 365-mile rail spur from Caliente to Yucca Mountain is costed as a government owned and operated "short-line" railroad. Twenty-two cost items are considered, of which by far the largest is the construction of the 365-mile single track rail line. Other significant items include the cost of staff and other operations over a 33-year period; the design costs for the rail line and its ancillary facilities, the purchase of locomotives, signal systems and other major equipment; and cost of periodic overhaul of major equipment.

The Central Storage Facility (Master Code 4.0)

Thirty-eight cost items and elements are considered in estimating the cost of the facility for centralized above-ground storage at NTS Area 25. By far, the largest is the cost of metal and concrete storage for SNF arriving canistered and uncanistered but not yet emplaced (see section 3.5, above). Other major items include the construction of storage pads and access alleys; the construction of a large reinforced concrete transfer facility (used in part as a staging location for the accumulation of uncanistered SNF to be loaded into metal storage casks); and the cost of staff, utilities and equipment maintenance during operation.

The Repository (Master Code 5.0)

Ninety cost items and elements are considered in projecting the cost for completing site characterization at Yucca Mountain and for construction and operation of the geologic repository. The major surface facility items are the construction of a waste handling building and a disposal container receiving facility. Major underground construction includes the cost of driving service and emplacement drifts and turnouts. The cost of staff, utilities and equipment maintenance (above-ground and underground) during emplacement, care-taking and closure/decommissioning is a major cost, as is the cost of designing surface and underground facilities (upfront and ongoing during operations). The purchase of about 11,000 containers for emplacement of SNF is also a major cost.


Several other program components considered in previous DOE estimates of TSLCC do not lend themselves to cost assessment via the site-by-site analysis used for onsite storage and transportation or the engineering cost analysis used for Nevada components.

Technical Assistance Training: NWPA Section 180 (c) (Master Code 2.4)

This analysis estimated the cost of technical assistance training required by NWPA Section 180(c) to prepare affected states, counties and Indian tribes to effectively prepare for and respond to emergencies (accidents or incidents) in a shipment campaign involving (under assumptions used in this assessment) 30,400 cask shipments and 65 million cask shipment miles by rail and truck. The state, local and Tribal responsibilities are for "awareness" and "first response", and do not include the full cost of responding to, or cleaning-up after, accidents or incidents.

Costs are estimated in terms of estimated annual payments to 40 states,(36) 10 particularly affected counties, 4 regional organizations of states, and an unspecified number of Indian Tribes and organizations. The costs also include contracts and agreements (with federal agencies and labs) to prepare and deliver the training.

Costs are assumed to begin two years ahead of the first shipment (2003 in this assessment) and to extend at a relatively high "gear-up"level over ten years, then to continue at a lower "maintenance" level throughout the SNF shipment campaign, and at an even lower level during the remaining years of the HLW shipment campaign.

Repository Site Characterization (Master Code 5.1)

Through FY 1996, DOE expended $4,376 million (FY'96$) on characterization of the nation's first geologic repository for high-level radioactive wastes. Of this, $2,768 million (63.3 percent) was spent at Yucca Mountain, $691 million (15.8 percent) at the Hanford site in Washington, and $741 million (16.9 percent) at the Deaf Smith County site in Texas. An additional $158 million was spent in the mid-1980's in preliminary characterization for the nation's second repository.

In 1991, DOE estimated that characterization at Yucca Mountain would require expenditure of $6,531 million, of which $1,869 million is included in DOE's funding request for FY 1997 or its projected funding requirements for FY 1998-2002. The difference between the 1991 estimate ($6,531 million) and the expenditure through FY 1996 ($4,376 million) is included as the remaining expenditure for site characterization in this assessment. This estimate is assumed to include contingency and project management. The cost of the recently-authorized east-west tunnel in the exploratory studies facility (estimated via engineering costing procedures) is included in addition to the site characterization estimates from 1991. Note that DOE's estimate of funding requirements for site characterization "reflect activities specified in the revised Program Plan through submission of a license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission"(37)--implying that site characterization does not include activities subsequent to submission of the license application, or not reflected in the current Program Plan.

Other Development and Evaluation Costs (Master Code 6.0)

All DOE expenditure to-date has been "development and evaluation"--a broad category which includes the exploratory studies facility at Yucca Mountain, site characterization at Yucca Mountain and other sites, and various planning activities related to waste acceptance, transportation, and interim or monitored retrievable storage.

In this assessment, projected expenditure for development and evaluation are specified for Yucca Mountain site characterization (master code 5.1) or included in estimates for program management. However, DOE's 9/95 TSLCC included estimates for NRC fees, support of the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board and the Nuclear Waste Negotiator (whose activities began in 1990 and were terminated in 1995). This assessment uses DOE's estimates (adjusted to FY'96$) for these "other development and evaluation costs"--even though the waste management assumptions for this assessment could require activity by NRC, the NWTRB and other review or regulatory agencies which was not anticipated in 1995.

Other Program Costs (Master Code 7.0)

This assessment uses DOE's 9/95 estimates (adjusted to FY'96$) for Payments Equal to Taxes and Benefits. However, several program components required by the waste management assumptions of this assessment (intermodal transfer, heavy-haul, rail spur and centralized storage) were not anticipated in previous estimates of TSLCC. For these components, PETT was estimated based on the direct construction and major equipment costs of the facilities that would form an assessment base were the facilities privately-owned and operated. Other factors are the years in which PETT is applicable, the assessment rate (35 percent in Nevada), tax rates (selected FY'96 unit tax rates in Lincoln and Nye Counties), and the portion of the rail spur likely to be located in the two counties.

Back | TOC | Next

Return to the
Nuclear Waste Project Office
Home Page
State of Nevada
Nuclear Waste Project Office
Capitol Complex
Carson City, NV 89710
(702) 687-3744 voice
(702) 687-5277 fax e-mail