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

Nuclear Energy & Waste Program

The role of the Berkeley Lab Earth Sciences Division Nuclear Energy and Waste (NEW) Program is to assist the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the United States, and other countries in solving problems concerning the safe and effective use of nuclear energy and geological disposal of high-level radioactive waste, through high-quality scientific analyses and technology development. Most of this research program is associated with need for long-term disposal of high-level radioactive waste. After being a key contributor to R&D and licensing activities for the once proposed Yucca Mountain repository, LBNL is now engaged in evaluating alternatives to Yucca Mountain and conducting research and technology development to enable long-term disposal of used nuclear fuel and wastes in other host rock environments. These activities reside within DOE’s Used Fuel Disposition Campaign which was established in 2009. LBNL also supports disposal work undertaken by several international nuclear waste organizations. The key objective of our scientists to improve the scientific foundation of coupled hydrological, thermal, geochemical, and geochemical processes and their interactions relevant to the long-term containment of nuclear waste. Beyond disposal research, LBNL scientists also engage in waste forms research and in the structural safety analysis of new nuclear power plants.

Research in this program is accomplished by approximately 25 LBNL scientists and postdocs, who are members of various Earth Science Division departments. The program is largely supported by DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy with additional funding coming from a variety of additional sponsors. The Nuclear Energy & Waste Program is currently headed by Jens Birkholzer.

Research Areas

Nuclear waste must be isolated from the accessible environment for tens of thousands of years into the future

The NEW program can be categorized into the following main Research Areas: