This report presents the results of a critical review of the technological challenges to the growth of nuclear energy, emerging advanced technologies that would have to be deployed, and fuel cycle strategies that could conceivably involve interim storage, plutonium recycling in thermal and fast reactors, reprocessed uranium recycling, and transmutation of minor actinide elements and fission products before eventual disposal of residual wastes.
The main question before the Transportation and Storage Subcommittee was whether the United States should change its approach to storing and transporting spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and high-level radioactive waste (HLW) while one or more disposal facilities are established.
Approximately 54,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel are stored at operating nuclear power plants and several decommissioned power plants throughout the country. Spent fuel storage at these sites was never intended to be permanent. The current Federal plan is to place the fuel in a repository for permanent disposal in Nevada at Yucca Mountain.
The nuclear energy industry is committed to legislative reform to create a sustainable, integrated program for federal government management of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) high-level radioactive waste and commercial used nuclear fuel.
The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, as amended, established a statutory basis
for managing the nation’s civilian (or commercially produced) spent nuclear
fuel. The law established a process for siting, developing, licensing, and constructing
an underground repository for the permanent disposal of that waste.
Utilities were given the primary responsibility for storing spent fuel until it is
accepted by the Department of Energy (DOE) for disposal at a repository —
originally expected to begin operating in 1998. Since then, however, the repository
The Centralized Interim Storage Facility (CISF) is designed as a temporary, above-ground away-from-reactor spent fuel storage installation for up to 40,000 metric tons of uranium (MTU). The design is non-site-specific but incorporates conservative environmental and design factors (e.g., 360 mph tornado and 0.75 g seismic loading) intended to be capable of bounding subsequent site-specific factors. Spent fuel is received in dual-purpose canister systems and/or casks already approved for transportation and storage by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
The Department of Energy (DOE) is studying a site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, for a
permanent underground repository for highly radioactive spent fuel from nuclear reactors,
but delays have pushed back the facility’s opening date to 2010 at the earliest. In the
meantime, spent fuel is accumulating at U.S. nuclear plant sites at the rate of about 2,000
metric tons per year. Major options for managing those growing quantities of nuclear spent
fuel include continued storage at reactors, construction of a DOE interim storage site near
At the request of the staff to the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (“BRC”), we have reviewed whether certain recommendations in the BRC’s July 29, 2011 Draft Report respecting near-term actions by the Department of Energy (“DOE”) or other officers or agencies in the Executive Branch can be implemented under existing law. These recommendations relate to:
(1) Initial steps to site, license and construct consolidated interim storage facilities for spent nuclear fuel (“spent fuel”);
The American Nuclear Society (ANS) supports the safe, controlled, licensed, and regulated interim
storage of used nuclear fuel (UNF) (irradiated, spent fuel from a nuclear power reactor) until disposition
can be determined and completed. ANS supports the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s)
determination that “spent fuel generated in any reactor can be stored safely and without significant
environmental impacts for at least 30 years beyond the licensed life for operation.
The issue of interim storage of used (spent)1 fuel is dependent on a number of key factors, some
of which are not known at this time but are the subject of this study. The first is whether or not
the Yucca Mountain Project continues or is cancelled such that it may be able to receive spent
fuel from existing and decommissioned nuclear power stations. The second is whether the United
States will pursue a policy of reprocessing and recycling nuclear fuel. The reprocessing and