Closure of tanks containing high-level radioactive waste (HLW) is a challenging problem involving potentially competing influences from economic, societal, and technological considerations. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is faced with protecting public health and the environment while making economically responsible decisions. Risk (i.e., annual dose) is becoming more prominent as DOE's metric to evaluate the economic consequences of its decisions. Risks are assessed through modeling and calculations commonly known as performance assessment (PA). In the process of tank closure, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is typically consulted to perform an independent review of DOE's PAs.
The NRC staff developed a generic PA model, applicable to HLW tank closure, which NRC utilizes to complete its independent review. The model was developed using the generic simulation software, GoldSim, because of its probabilistic capabilities and its adaptability to different problems . The NRC staff uses the resultant risk from the generic models to evaluate the reasonableness of performance assessment models submitted by DOE. Large differences in the estimates of risk between the generic PA model and the DOE PA would likely indicate a need for stronger technical basis for processes significantly contributing to annual dose (risk) reduction.