Friday, December 16, 2005

Troubled by "Take Title," Part Two

In addition to my concern about the "take title" portion of the bill introduced by Senator Harry Reid I'm disturbed by the proposal to amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to require

utilities to transfer nuclear fuel from cooling pools into storage casks within six years.
As reported in this article of the Salt Lake Tribune.

Such a proposal clearly stems from a lack of understanding about how used fuel is managed at nuclear power plants.

First, both fuel pools and dry cask storage are robust and safe. After 9/11, the NRC re-evaluated them and concluded that a similar attack would not have a negative effect on public health and safety. Therefore, utilities should be allowed to choose the storage option that is best for their site.

After fuel reprocessing was halted in 1979, many new plants were built with larger pools to handle most, if not all, of the used fuel for the lifetime of the plant. These operators should be allowed to continue on that course without incurring the unnecessary costs of licensing, building, and operating an Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI).

Furthermore, plants that already have, or plan to have, ISFSIs should not be constrained by an arbitrary time limit for pool storage. Heck, some licensed designs currently in use require a minimum of seven years of pool storage before placement in a cask. The time limit is based primarily on heat load. And even for designs that allow earlier placement, it is optimal to have a mix of "old, cold" and "young hot" in any one cask. To constrain the ability of utilities to optimize (heat load, dose to operators, etc) their fuel loading would be unnecessarily costly and foolish.

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naive engineer said...

There seem to be two groups of people interested in Sen. Reid's proposed bill to have the government "take title" of spent fuel in dry cask storage at nuclear reactor sites. Reid represents a contingent that either opposes nuclear power (which the senator says he favors) or who simply oppose disposal of the spent fuel at the Yucca Mountain repository.
It is good that we hear from the second group, which I term "the engineers," who actually understand spent fuel and its safe management.
Setting aside the unstated or unknown costs to implement the Reid proposal, let me ask just how the senator expects the "Spent Nuclear Fuel On-Site Storage Security Act" would improve security? We can debate whether managing spent fuel in 72 locations mostly in the populous east along rivers and other bodies of water is more secure than a single, underground facility on government land in the isolated part of Southern Nevada. But here is a more practical look at it, that the "engineers" might raise. If the government takes over the spent fuel storage area within the reactor site "compound" and needs to provide security for it, won't the utility still need to provide security for the rest of the complex? Of course it must. So, then there could be one set of "guns" under federal control and another set under control of the utility. Is this gonna make it more secure? In military defenses it is important to have "unity of command," that I don't sense working too well under the Reid scheme. It might work, but it might not. Before some "all or nothing" approach, would it not be worth a pilot application to see how workable the split management would work?

Anonymous said...

Senator Harry Reid's bill is of selfish motivation. He is ignorant and shortsighted in this issue. Its just all about the "not in my backyard syndrome".

Anonymous said...

Senator Reid's Bill is in any way or form have anything to do in solving the nuclear waste problem. It is rushed and ill-informed.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone really believe that having DOE take title to the spent fuel at 72 sites is more secure? Does anyone think that setting up 72 new DOE sites is going to be more cost-efficient than shipping the spent fuel to Yucca Mountain? Of course not. This is nothing more than a ploy to try to starve the Yucca Mountain project, so that it eventually dies simply from a lack of funding. The industry must remain firm on the commitment that we need YM.
I would imagine that the senators and representatives from the states where these 72 new interim storage sites will come into existence would be loath to support this "security act."