36°56' 25'' N | 116°27' 30'' W

Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, Nevada, USA Overview

Scope of Work Scientific, engineering, and licensing services
Value $1.9 billion
Schedule 2001–2008
Business Nuclear, Security & Environmental

Examining the potential of national nuclear waste repository site

A Bechtel-led team studied Yucca Mountain as the site for the United States' first national nuclear waste repository—where spent-fuel rods from nuclear power plants and solidified high-level radioactive waste from nuclear defense activities could be stored permanently.

Located at the edge of the Nevada National Security Site (formerly the Nevada Test Site)—part of a nuclear testing ground established by U.S. President Harry Truman—Yucca Mountain is far from any population centers, has a very dry climate, and is protected by an Air Force range on three sides. It’s about a hundred miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Las Vegas. Key to Yucca Mountain’s suitability as a repository are its geological characteristics.

Yucca Mountain

Fuel rods from nuclear power plants release no greenhouse gases when they generate electricity. But when they're no longer useful in power plants, they require secure, permanent disposal. In the early 1980s, the U.S. government green-lighted an initiative to find a safe, secure way to dispose of the nation’s growing nuclear waste. Hundreds of world-class engineers, geologists, seismologists, volcanologists, chemists, and other specialists studied candidate sites across the country and converged on Yucca Mountain. Starting in 2001, Bechtel and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) teamed up to conduct even more extensive studies, computer modeling, and sophisticated analytic surveys exploring the site’s potential as a repository.

yucca test tunnelThe Bechtel SAIC team collected and analyzed data from some 8 miles (13 kilometers) of test tunnels and 450 boreholes drilled deep into the mountain to study the rock, water movement, and susceptibility to earthquakes. The team also designed the storage tunnels and safety systems for the planned repository as well as the material handling buildings that would receive the spent fuel shipments and package the fuel rods for burial.
The analyses and engineering formed the basis of the historic license application submitted by the U.S. Department of Energy to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2008.

Unprecedented test

In a 150-foot- (46-meter-) long, full-scale repository simulation, technicians from Bechtel SAIC filled containers with electrical heaters to determine how the mountain would react to the heat of nuclear waste. And some 6,000 measuring instruments helped scientists understand how water moves through the rock in response to that heat. Such a test was unprecedented on that scale and level of detail.

Outstanding safety four years running

DOE also bestowed on Bechtel SAIC its Legacy of Stars" award, honoring contractors that have attained Star of Excellence status four consecutive years.

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