Shut reactors' spent fuel would be first at storage facility: US DOE
Washington (Platts)--11Jan2013/314 pm EST/2014 GMT
With the "appropriate authorizations" from the US Congress, the Obama
administration plans to have an interim storage facility by 2021 that would
have an initial focus on accepting spent fuel from shut power reactors, the
US Department of Energy said Friday in a report.
The plan is included in the department's response to recommendations the
federal Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future issued nearly a
year ago. The DOE-appointed commission had the task of evaluating
alternatives to the department's proposed repository at Yucca Mountain,
Nevada, which DOE abandoned in 2010, and of recommending a new national
strategy on spent fuel.
DOE said in the report that the department also would move toward siting
and licensing a larger interim storage facility that would be operational by
2025 "that will have sufficient capacity to provide flexibility in the
waste-management system and allows for acceptance of enough used fuel to
reduce expected government liabilities."
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The government's liability grows at a rate of $500 million/year for each
year it does not have a facility in which to store and/or dispose of utility
spent fuel. Under a contract the department signed with nuclear utilities in
1983, DOE was supposed to begin disposing utility spent fuel in January 1998.
Utility damage claims, as a result of that default, are paid out of the
taxpayer-funded Federal Judgment Fund.
Other work during the next 10 years, DOE said, will be aimed at making
"demonstrable progress on the siting and characterization" of potential
repository sites. DOE said the work would be targeted at having a geologic
repository by 2048 for the disposal of spent fuel and high-level nuclear
In January 2012, the BRC recommended that DOE move the civilian waste
program out of the department to a separate entity and that a consent-based
process be used to site one or more interim storage facilities and one or
more repositories. The BRC also recommended the new organization has
greater access to the Nuclear Waste Fund, a federal trust fund established in
1982 to bankroll the disposal of utility spent fuel.
DOE said in the report that the Obama administration endorses the
commission's recommendations and believes they would provide a good "starting
point" for a new national program for the management and disposal of utility
DOE said that full implementation of its program will require legislative
action. It added that legislation also would have to detail "the requirements
for consent-based siting; a reformed funding approach that provides
sufficient and timely resources; and the establishment of a new organization
to implement the program; the structure of which should balance greater
autonomy with the need for continued Executive and Legislative branch
DOE added that, in the meantime, the administration, through the
department, "is undertaking activities within existing congressional
authorization to plan for the eventual transportation, storage and disposal
of used nuclear fuel." It said activities range from "examining
waste-management system design concepts, to developing plants for
consent-based siting processes, to conducting research and development on the
suitability of various geologies for a repository."
--Elaine Hiruo, email@example.com
--Edited by Valarie Jackson, firstname.lastname@example.org