Fact Sheet  
Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management
License Application timeline

Repository licensing overview

The passage of this law follows more than 20 years of scientific study of the Yucca Mountain site by the U.S. Department of Energy.
In June, 2008, the Department of Energy submitted a license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) requesting authorization to construct a national repository for the disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain.

The NRC is the licensing and enforcement agency that will make the final decision on whether the DOE is allowed to proceed with construction and subsequently licensed to operate the repository.

NRC approval consists of two steps:
  • A construction authorization
  • A license
The license application consists of a letter describing its purpose, accompanied by attachments that contain general information and a safety analysis report.
  • The general information portion of the application will provide an overview of the repository’s engineering design concept and will describe the natural features of the site.
  • The safety analysis report (the main technical document in the licensing process) will demonstrate how the repository can be constructed, operated, and closed in a manner that protects public and worker health and safety and preserves the quality of the environment.
The NRC will perform an acceptance review to determine if the application is suitable for performing a detailed technical review.

After the license application is docketed, the NRC will conduct extensive technical reviews and legal hearings during which it will consider the scientific and design information on the repository. As required by law, the hearings will be open to the public.

A hearing panel appointed by the NRC, referred to as the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, will conduct the licensing proceeding. After completion of the proceeding, the board will forward its initial decision to the commissioners for their review.

The NRC will grant a construction authorization only if it concludes from its investigations that the repository would meet its reasonable expectation that the safety and health of workers and the public would be protected.

After construction authorization is granted, DOE will begin initial construction. The license application and subsequent revisions to the application, made in response to NRC requests for additional information, would be updated to reflect any new or more detailed information and submitted to the NRC in support of receiving a license.

The NRC Review Process
  • A license application is submitted to the NRC.

  • After the NRC completes its acceptance review of the material contained in the general information and SAR and determines the submittal to be complete, it will announce in the Federal Register an opportunity for interested parties to participate in hearings. The hearings will be presided over by an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. Multiple boards may be appointed. Boards typically have three members — an administrative law judge who is a lawyer to run the proceeding and two technical experts. Boards may have more than three members.

  • Board members are drawn from a panel of pre-approved, qualified members. Entities and individuals interested in supporting or opposing the repository will be required to file petitions to be admitted as parties to the proceeding, as well as file legally- or technically-relevant contentions. The board may permit limited appearances by those wishing to make brief statements but not become parties.

  • At the same time the board is performing its legal functions, the NRC staff will conduct a technical review of the general information and SAR. As a result of that review, the NRC staff will generate questions on the license application, referred to as requests for additional information, which DOE will answer in the form of revisions to the general information and SAR.

  • The Board will examine the proposed contentions and rule on each. After the NRC staff completes its technical review and the board completes processing proposed contentions, the two efforts will converge in the hearing process. DOE, NRC, and (in some instances) contractor staff will have to take the stand to address contentions admitted by the board.

  • After all contentions and responses have been heard by the board, the board will issue its initial decision regarding construction. If the decision is not overturned by the commissioners or the appellate court, construction can begin.


Yucca Mountain Project