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Used Fuel Disposition Campaign Disposal Research and Development Roadmap

The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE-NE), Office of Fuel Cycle Technology (OFCT) has established the Used Fuel Disposition Campaign (UFDC) to conduct the research and development (R&D) activities related to storage, transportation and disposal of used nuclear fuel (UNF) and high level nuclear waste (HLW). The Mission of the UFDC is

To identify alternatives and conduct scientific research and technology development to enable storage, transportation and disposal of used nuclear fuel and wastes generated by existing and future nuclear fuel cycles.

The U.S. has, for the past twenty-plus years, focused efforts on disposing of spent nuclear fuel1 (SNF) and HLW in a geologic repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The recent decision by DOE to no longer pursue the development of that repository has necessitated investigating other geologic media and concepts for the disposal of SNF and HLW that exists today and that could be generated under future fuel cycles. The disposal of SNF and HLW in a range of geologic media has been investigated internationally. Considerable progress has been made in the U.S and other nations, but gaps in knowledge still exist.

The U.S. national laboratories have participated in these programs and have conducted research and development related to these issues to a limited extent. However, a comprehensive R&D program investigating a variety of geologic media has not been a part of the U.S. waste management program since the mid 1980s. Such a comprehensive R&D program is being developed in the UFDC.

An aspect of the UFDC’s considerations associated with implementing a geologic repository in different geologic media is the marked differences between the U.S. and other nations, in the regulatory bases for assessing suitability and safety of a repository. Because the probability based – risk informed nature of U.S. regulations is sufficiently different from other regulations, information gained in previous studies, while useful, likely needs to be supplemented to enable more convincing communication with the public, better defense of the scientific basis, and stronger safety cases.

This UFDC Disposal R&D Roadmap is an initial evaluation and prioritization of R&D opportunities that could be pursued by the campaign. It is a “living” roadmap and will be revised to update the status and prioritization of R&D needs as progress is made in the R&D program or as necessary to reflect changing understanding of these needs.