The purpose of the Yucca Mountain project is to determine if Yucca Mountain is a suitable site for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste storage. The present prime contractor for the project is Bechtel SAIC Company, LLC (a consortium of government contractors Bechtel Corporation and Science Applications International Corporation). The consortium employs 1,300 people on the project. The main tunnel of the Exploratory Studies Facility is U-shaped 5 miles (8 km) long and 25 feet (8 m) wide. There are also several cathedral-like alcoves that branch from the main tunnel. It is in these alcoves that most of the scientific experiments are conducted. The galleries (smaller tunnels perpendicular to the main tunnel) where waste will be stored have not been constructed.
The proposed repository zone will cover 1150 acres (4.7 km²), be 1000 feet (300 m) below the surface of the mountain and 1000 feet (300 m) above the water table. The waste will be encased in a multilayer stainless steel and nickel alloy package covered by titanium drip shields that function also as rock shields.
By early 2002, 7 billion US dollars had been spent on the project which has made Yucca Mountain the most studied piece of geology in the world. Total cost is expected be between 50 and 100 billion dollars. The cost of the facility is being paid for by the public using nuclear generated electricity and the federal government for disposal of defense nuclear waste.