Probabilistic Risk Analysis for a High-Level Radioactive Waste Repository


*Department of Physics, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260;


A probabilistic risk analysis (PRA) for a high-level radioactive waste repository is very important since it gives an estimate of its health impacts, allowing comparisons to be made with the health impacts of competing technologies. However, it is extremely difficult to develop a credible PRA for a specific repository site because of large uncertainties in future climate, hydrology, geological processes, etc. At best, such a PRA would not be understandable to the public. An alternative proposed here is to develop a PRA for an average U.S. site, taking all properties of the site to be the U.S. average. The results are equivalent to the average results for numerous randomly selected sites. Such a PRA is presented here; it is easy to understand, and it is not susceptible to substantial uncertainty. Applying the results to a specific repository site then requires only a simple, intuitively acceptable “leap of faith” in assuming that with large expenditures of effort and money, experts can select a site that would be at least as secure as a randomly selected site.