Simulating the Long Term Performance of a Proposed Repository for Spent Fuel and High-Level Waste

The Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM) is a program of the US Department of Energy (DOE) assigned to develop and manage a federal system for disposing of spent nuclear fuel from commercial nuclear reactors and high-level radioactive waste from national defense activities. The Yucca Mountain site is located in Nye County, Nevada, approximately 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. For two decades, the OCRWM conducted scientific and engineering investigations at Yucca Mountain to determine its suitability as a nuclear waste repository. In 2002, the Secretary of Energy, Spencer Abraham, recommended to President Bush that the Yucca Mountain site be developed as the nation’s first long-term geologic repository for high-level radioactive waste. In June 2008, the DOE submitted a formal license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). (In March 2010 the DOE filed a motion with the NRC to withdraw its license application.  Multiple lawsuits to stop this action have been filed by states, counties, and individuals across the country.)

Yucca Mountain performance assessment variables


The Yucca Mountain Project used GoldSim to simulate the long-term performance of the proposed radioactive waste repository. The model computed the predicted environmental impact of the facility over the next 10,000 years. (The modeling effort was discussed in some detail in an article in Wired Magazine.) GoldSim played a key role in the recent recommendation to the President that the US move forward on developing Yucca Mountain as the sole high-level waste repository for commercial nuclear reactor waste.

The Yucca Mountain performance assessment team used the GoldSim Distributed Processing Module to run the model on 80 parallel processors and dramatically reduce the time to perform each Monte Carlo simulation.


GoldSim’s powerful presentation capabilities were critical for this project since the model structure and results must be effectively communicated to regulators, government officials, and the public. The Yucca Mountain Project designed a highly interactive GoldSim interface specifically for the public that provided an easy-to-understand summary of the entire project.

Yucca Mountain performance assessment model dashboard

Additional Reading

For more information, read the Yucca Mountain Case Study.


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