In this paper the problem of high level nuclear waste disposal is viewed as a five-stage, cascaded decision problem.
The first four of these decisions having essentially been made, the work of recent years has been focused on the fifth stage which concerns specifics of the repository design. The probabilistic performance assessment (PPA) work is viewed as the outcome prediction for this stage, and the site characterization work as the information gathering option. This brief examination of the proposed Yucca Mountain repository through a decision analysis framework resulted in three conclusions: 1) a decision theory approach to the process of selecting and characterizing Yucca Mountain would enhance public understanding of the issues and solutions to high level waste management; 2) engineered systems are an attractive alternative to offset uncertainties in the containment capability of the natural setting and should receive greater emphasis in the design of the repository; 3) a strategy of "waste management" should be adopted, as opposed to "waste disposal," as it allows for incremental confirmation and confidence building of a permanent solution to the high level waste problem.
This article was published in Risk Analysis, Vol. 19, No. 5, 1999. The definitive version is available at blackwell-synergy.com.