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Nuclear Regulatory Commission renews SwRI contract for $86.2 million

San Antonio, Texas  — October 14, 2002 — The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission renewed its contract with Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) for an additional five years at $86.2 million. The renewal authorizes the Institute to continue operating the Center for Nuclear Waste Regulatory Analyses (CNWRA) located at SwRI in San Antonio. Under the renewal contract, the CNWRA will provide technical assistance in conducting pre-licensing and licensing reviews of a proposed geologic repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

The contract renewal took place against the backdrop of the U.S. Congress approving the Department of Energy's (DOE) Yucca Mountain site for development as a geologic repository for disposal of high-level radioactive waste. President George W. Bush signed House Joint Resolution 87 on July 23, 2002, which authorizes the DOE to submit a license application seeking NRC's approval to construct a repository at Yucca Mountain.

"The CNWRA is beginning its sixteenth year at SwRI," said the Center's president and SwRI Vice President, Dr. Wesley C. Patrick. "We continue to be actively engaged in fulfilling our mission and achieving the vision of being a center of excellence in earth science and engineering."

The CNWRA, established in October 1987 as a federally funded research and development center, provides the Commission an independent assessment capability as it develops and implements the regulations and related guidance that will govern the licensing review of the proposed underground repository. The facility is intended to safely house and isolate 70,000 tons of high-level radioactive nuclear waste from the environment for at least 10,000 years. Currently, nuclear waste is stored in 131 temporary locations across the United States. Provided it meets stringent NRC requirements, the proposed repository at Yucca Mountain would provide a permanent, safe underground disposal facility for nuclear waste.

The scope of the CNWRA under the NRC contract is broad. Typical projects include helping to develop the technical bases for the regulatory framework and evaluate site sufficiency, participating in NRC outreach activities, and developing criteria and methods to assist NRC in its evaluation of DOE site characterization efforts. The CNWRA will also assist NRC in evaluating the design, construction, operation, and ultimate closing of the proposed repository.

Although it primarily focuses on nuclear waste issues in the United States, CNWRA's expertise has also been recognized and used by several foreign countries that are developing regulatory procedures and technical methods for evaluating their candidate high-level waste repository sites.

For more information, contact Tracey M.S. Whelan, Communications, (210) 522-2256, Fax (210) 522-3547, PO Drawer 28510, San Antonio, Texas 78228-0510.

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