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Report of the Infrastructure Task Force of the Nuclear Energy Research Advisory Committee

On October 1, 2002 the DOE Nuclear Energy Research Advisory Committee was asked to provide specific, focused updates to its Nuclear Science and Technology Infrastructure Roadmap and review the specific issues at the DOE key nuclear energy research and development (R&D) laboratories. This activity was assigned to a five-member Infrastructure Task Force (ITF). After receiving extensive written materials from DOE, the Idaho Nuclear Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) and Argonne National Laboratory-West (ANL-W), on November 6-8, 2002 the ITF visited the Idaho site and received briefings and tours of the INEEL and ANL-W facilities. INEEL and ANL-W have provided updated facility descriptions that will be incorporated by DOE staff, with ITF review, into a revision of the Roadmap.

On January 7-8, 2003 the ITF met in Albuquerque, NM to complete preparation of this Report. Detailed Conclusions and Recommendations of the ITF are found in Sections IV and V, respectively, of the Report. The most important conclusions are:

ITF believes it is significant and important to have designated a lead laboratory for nuclear energy research and development.

The funding at the Idaho site, given the lead-lab status is clearly insufficient. ITF notes that there are certain facilities, e.g., the Fuel Processing Facility, that

have lost their missions and/or for which significant maintenance challenges exist.

These facilities should be abandoned. ITF observes that if Idaho site facilities are to be used for the proposed missions,

e.g., Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative, Generation IV Reactors and other nuclear energy programs beyond 2010, resources must be provided at appropriate levels.

The most important recommendations are:

Given events since the National Energy Strategy was issued, the ITF believes that the federal commitment to nuclear energy needs to be restated and reinforced by the White House and other senior administration officials.

For the Administration to go forward with “nuclear energy beyond 2010” the lead lab site at Idaho requires an immediate and significant increase in funding to, e.g., clear up maintenance backlog and make key facilities mission ready.

ITF recommends that university participation (faculty and students) be a basic element of research and development in “nuclear energy beyond 2010”.

Some facilities should be shut down or not considered for further development. In our view this includes the uncompleted Fuel Processing Facility (FPF) that we recommend be abandoned. There may be others such as the Flourinel Dissolution Process Cell (FDP).

New facilities will probably be needed for the purposes of “nuclear energy beyond 2010”. We believe this might include a source of fast neutrons, among others. In this regard ITF recommends a specific study on the need for steady and fast neutron facilities in the U.S. This study should consider accessibility of existing support facilities. In order to optimize the use of resources we strongly recommend that use of facilities beyond the Idaho site but in the U.S. (e.g. ANL-E, Oak Ridge, and Savannah River) and international sites in the Gen IV partner countries. Given the designation of INEEL as the lead nuclear energy laboratory, ITF recommends that INEEL establish an external review process for laboratory activities.

The ITF appreciates the support and candor of the INEEL and ANL-W staffs during our visit and in their responses to our request for additional information. We also appreciate the support of DOE staff in the preparation of the update to the Nuclear Science and Technology Infrastructure Roadmap. As stated in the Report, there are significant challenges to be met for INEEL to truly become the lead DOE Laboratory for nuclear energy research and development.