Waste Management

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By FRANK L.PARKER

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As a consequence, they will have large uncertainties associated with the predicted performance. These uncertainties could pose serious obstacles in demonstrating compliance with licensing requirements. Discussions at BRWM's 1988 study session identified four principal causes of uncertainty: 1. Structural uncertainty. Do the equations adequately represent the operative physical processes? Do we in fact understand the system well enough to model it mathematically? Modeling will be most successful in solving Region 3 problems (see Figure 1), where we have a great deal of data and a good understanding of how the system works.

Several experts, however, have commented on the difficulty of applying classical hydrology models to the problem of radioactive waste isolation. Groundwater hydrologists are becoming increasingly aware that inadequate and insufficient data limit the reliability of traditional deterministic [distributedparameter] groundwater models. 10 To carry out these [repository flow] calculations, hydrogeologists are applying geostatistical models and stochastic simulation methods originally developed to assess piezometric response in near-surface unconsolidated aquifers over limited spatial distances and short time frames with relatively abundant data.

Instead, the program is at risk because it is following the wrong approach to implementation. The current predetermined process, in which every step is mandated in detail as in the more than 6,000-page “Site Characterization Plan,”15 is inappropriate. The current policy calls for a sequential process in which EPA and the USNRC first establish the criteria for safe disposal, and then DOE describes in detail what steps will be taken to move through site characterization, licensing, and operation of the facility.

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