Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI) at the shutdown Connecticut Yankee site. The ISFSI includes 40 multi-purpose canisters, within vertical concrete storage casks, containing 1019 used nuclear fuel assemblies [412.3 metric ton heavy metal (MTHM)] and 3 canisters of greater-than-class-C (GTCC) low-level radioactive waste. Photo courtesy of Connecticut Yankee (http://www.connyankee.com/html/fuel_storage.html).
The future of nuclear energy in the United States depends on our ability to manage and disposition used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. Used fuel management and disposition are essential components in any nuclear fuel cycle, including recycle fuel cycles.
In 2010, the Secretary of Energy chartered the Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) on America’s Nuclear Future to conduct a comprehensive review and recommend a plan of action for the management and disposal of the nation’s used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. In January of 2012, the BRC issued a Report to the Secretary of Energy , which included a number of recommendations. In January 2013, the Administration released its Strategy for the Management and Disposal of Used Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste, which serves as a statement of Administration policy regarding the importance of addressing the disposition of used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste; lays out the overall design of a system to address the issue; outlines the reforms needed to implement such a system; and represents the Administration’s response to the BRC recommendations. In coordination with the development of the Administration’s Strategy, the Department of Energy (DOE) established a dedicated planning project – the Nuclear Fuels Storage and Transportation (NFST) Planning Project – on October 1, 2012, to develop and begin implementation of an integrated management plan to (1) implement interim storage; (2) improve the overall integration of storage as a planned part of the waste management system; and (3) prepare for the large-scale transportation of used nuclear fuel and high-level waste, with an initial focus on removing used nuclear fuel from the shutdown reactor sites.
The Administration’s Strategy for the Management and Disposal of Used Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste released January 11, 2013, is a “framework for moving toward a sustainable program to deploy an integrated system capable of transporting, storing, and disposing of used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste from civilian nuclear power generation, defense, national security and other activities.”
Under this guidance, the Administration currently plans to implement a program that contains the following milestones:
- 2021 – site, design and license, construct and begin operations of a pilot interim storage facility with an initial focus on accepting used nuclear fuel from shut down reactors
- 2025 – site and license a larger interim storage facility with sufficient capacity to provide flexibility in the waste management system allowing for acceptance of enough used nuclear fuel to reduce expected government liabilities
- 2048 – make demonstrable progress on the siting and characterization of repository sites to facilitate the availability of a geologic repository by 2048
Within existing authorizations, the initial objectives of the NFST Planning Project are to identify, plan, and conduct activities required to achieve the Strategy milestones for interim storage and supporting transportation. The NFST Planning Project activities are prioritized and executed such that they will provide a foundation for a new nuclear waste management organization, if authorized by Congress. Fundamental research and development (R&D) activities associated with the storage, transportation, and disposal of used nuclear fuel and high-level waste are being addressed in the Used Fuel Disposition Campaign. The NFST Planning Project is organized to address interim storage, transportation, and siting.
The Administration’s Strategy endorses a waste management system containing a pilot interim storage facility; a larger, full-scale interim storage facility; and a geologic repository. Efforts are underway to evaluate design and operational concepts for an interim storage facility (ISF). This work provides input to DOE for consideration of possible options for development of storage facilities and a transportation system. The next steps will involve advancing these concepts with the eventual goal of developing a conceptual design. In order to promote the integration of at reactor storage into the waste management system, industry contracts were awarded to evaluate concepts for standardized storage, transportation, aging, and disposal canisters compatible with different geologic disposal media.
To support interim storage, the NFST Planning Project has initiated activities to prepare for the large-scale transportation of used fuel to one or more ISFs, with a focus on shutdown reactors that still have inventories of used nuclear fuel on site. The NFST Planning Project is engaging with state regional groups, other governmental organizations, and Native American tribal members to complete the procedures for: providing funding and technical assistance pursuant to section 180 (c) of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 for public safety and emergency preparedness programs; routing and communications; and the development of preliminary routes for shipments of used nuclear fuel.
Inspection of a rail cask used to transport commercial used nuclear fuel from West Valley to Idaho National Laboratory.
The NFST Planning Project will support the development of a consent-based siting process that directly engages stakeholders and potential host communities through deliberations regarding appropriate criteria and siting conditions for an ISF, as endorsed by the Administration’s Strategy and the BRC. The NFST Planning Project is currently compiling a database of the experience gained and relevant documentation produced in past efforts to site nuclear waste facilities, both in the United States and internationally; and assessing public perceptions relative to siting nuclear facilities.