Earth Sciences Division (ESD) Department of Energy (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)

Earth Sciences Division Staff: James E. Houseworth

James Houseworth

James E. Houseworth

Yucca Mountain Project Lead

Nuclear Energy & Waste Program



Phone: 702-295-4833

Fax: 702-295-7742


Biographical Summary

Jim Houseworth is a program manager in the Earth Sciences Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). Jim received his Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering Science from the California Institute of Technology in 1984. He joined Chevron Oil Field Research Company in 1984 and left in 1992 to join Intera Inc. as a Senior Staff Consultant on the Yucca Mountain Project (YMP).  In 1997, Jim became a Technical Systems Manager II with Duke Engineering and Services as part of the YMP. Then in 2000, Jim joined the Earth Sciences Division at LBNL as a Program Manager and as the deputy department manager for unsaturated zone processes on the YMP. He is currently the deputy manager of the Nuclear Waste Program in the Earth Sciences Division.

Jim’s current focus is on nuclear waste disposal in argillaceous rock and well stimulation for oil and gas production. The investigations of argillaceous rock have centered on hydro-mechanical behavior of this rock type in terms of fracture damage and flow processes and their impacts on waste isolation. Jim is also involved in technical assessments of hydraulic fracturing and other well stimulation methods for oil and gas production.

Jim’s long-term involvement with the YMP focused on unsaturated zone flow and transport processes and performance assessment for nuclear waste disposal. Much of Jim’s technical work has focused on radionuclide transport issues for unsaturated flow within engineered granular materials and in fractured, porous rock, including the effects of the hydrodynamically perturbed zone immediately below waste emplacement drifts. Jim’s work on the YMP also involved the integration of technical information to explain how the models used for unsaturated zone flow and transport may be interpreted relative to observed data.

Research Interests

Flow and transport phenomena in geologic media. Use of analytical and numerical methods for the solution of problems concerning single and multi-phase flow and transport, with applications to nuclear waste disposal and petroleum recovery.


  • Ph.D.,1984, Environmental Engineering Science, California Institute of Technology
  • M.S.,1978, Environmental Engineering Science, California Institute of Technology
  • B.S.,1977, Environmental Engineering Science, California Institute of Technology

Professional Experience

  • 2010 to Present    Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California
    Program Manager
    Participated in project planning and development for the DOE Used Fuel Disposition Program within the nuclear energy and waste program at Berkeley Lab. Developed an information baseline for features, events, and processes of high-level nuclear waste disposal in clay/shale repository host rock and bentonite backfill. Participated in the development of a modeling methodology for coupled thermal-hydrological-geomechanical processes include fracture damage in the excavation disturbed zone of a high-level nuclear waste repository. Participated in risk assessments and technical analyses concerning geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide. Conducted technical assessments of hydraulic fracturing and other well stimulation methods for oil and gas production.
  • 2000 to 2010    Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Las Vegas, Nevada
    Program Manager
    Responsible for technical and budget planning, work package management, and technical interfaces (internal and external) for Unsaturated Zone Flow and Transport activities on the Yucca Mountain Project.  Lead author for the license application chapter on unsaturated zone flow. Participated in interactions with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board concerning unsaturated zone flow and transport. Developed models for flow and transport in porous media and fractured rock to address fracture-matrix exchange of water and radionuclides, the effects of flow diversion around waste emplacement drifts on radionuclide transport, and radionuclide mixing in the drift invert.
  • 1997 to 2000        Duke Engineering and Services , Las Vegas, Nevada
    Technical Systems Manager II
    Managed unsaturated zone radionuclide transport modeling used in performance assessment for the Yucca Mountain Project.  Investigated sensitivity of radionuclide transport in the unsaturated zone to fracture characteristics and participated in establishing suitable parameter ranges for unsaturated zone transport modeling.  Developed a comprehensive summary analysis for all potential factors that could affect unsaturated zone processes important to repository performance.
  • 1992 to 1997        INTERA Inc., Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Senior Staff Consultant
    Responsible for performance assessment support of site characterization activities at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, DOE's proposed high-level nuclear waste disposal site. The site characterization activities included excavation of a twenty-five foot diameter, five-mile long tunnel through the potential repository zone, construction and operation of surface and subsurface support facilities, borehole drilling, and hydrological, geochemical, and geophysical testing.  All activities were evaluated with respect to any potential adverse effects on the performance of the site as a nuclear waste repository.  Controls to restrict construction and testing activities were developed as needed to limit any identified adverse effects.
  • 1984-1992            Chevron Oil Field Research Company, La Habra, California
  • Research Engineer
    Managed numerous projects to determine flow properties of earth cores and assessed effects of geologic variability on subsurface transport processes.  Project leader for technical service and research programs involving two-phase gas/liquid and liquid/liquid flow in porous media.  Investigations included laboratory testing and numerical modeling to assess the effects of rock heterogeneity, fluid phase behavior and fluid mixing.
  • 1978-1979            Bechtel, Inc., San Francisco, California
    Performed study of surface water reservoir dynamics and water quality and designed outfalls for nuclear power waste heat discharge.

Honors and Awards

  • 2012, “Directors Award for Exceptional Tech Transfer Achievement”, LBNL
  • 2007, "Outstanding Performance Award", LBNL 
  • 2006, "Outstanding Performance Award", LBNL