Nuclear waste isolation programs both inside and outside the United States have provided evidence that there are many geologic options for a repository, but virtually all of them rely to some degree on an engineered barrier system (EBS) to isolate and/or retard the migration of radionuclides to the biosphere. At Yucca Mountain, the design of the EBS was unexpectedly challenging because of uncertainties in quantitatively determining the local environment of the EBS particularly during the thermal pulse. The EBS design for the Yucca Mountain site evolved from a thin-walled, limited-lifetime, corrosion-resistant canister through a corrosion-allowance canister, to the present design, which may have a lifetime of more than 106 years. The EBS proposed for the Yucca Mountain repository has many individual sub-barriers, beginning with the spent fuel and waste, the cladding of the spent fuel, the geometry of the package, etc. The anticipated modes of degradation of engineering materials, including corrosion of the fuel, of the canister, and of the drip shield proposed specifically for the Yucca Mountain project, and the consequences of the materials degradation on the performance of the repository are presented. The roles of conservative modeling and simplifying assumptions for radionuclide mobilization and transport in the EBS on characterization of the source term are addressed.