Skip to main content

New Thinking Needed on Used Fuel Management Policy

A leading think tank called on Congress to address the nation's used nuclear fuel management and give "prompt consideration" to legislation that would help move critical federal programs forward. The Heritage Foundation issued a backgrounder last week on the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2008: Modernizing Spent Fuel Management in the U.S. Here are the recommendations the paper makes:

To modernize spent fuel management in the U.S. and provide the flexibility, clarifications, and autho­rizations needed to move nuclear power forward in the United States, Congress should:

  • Set a deadline requiring the Secretary of Energy to submit a repository license applica­tion for the Yucca Mountain repository within the next few months.
  • Provide for a phased licensing regime for the Yucca repository that would store spent nuclear fuel, but actively monitor it and keep it available for retrieval. ...
  • Remove artificial capacity restraints on the repository. Technology, science, and actual physi­cal capacity should be the primary limiting fac­tors with respect to Yucca's storage capacity.
However, the Yucca Mountain program still faces many challenges and powerful opponents. The Nevada congressional delegation has long opposed Yucca Mountain, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is the program's number one opponent.

Commentator Chuck Muth offers a compelling critique of Nevada's anti-Yucca campaign below:
When It Comes to Yucca, We’re Out of Loux

The state of Nevada’s knee-jerk, one-sided anti-Yucca campaign was again being sold at a forum yesterday, but a funny thing happened on the way to market: Few were buying it.
Some Nevada politicans are likely to remain opposed to Yucca Mountain regardless of the potential benefits to Nevadans in terms of jobs and investments. However, many policymakers and others are calling for the government to help move forward with aspects of the used fuel management program.

Last week, Sen. Pete Domenci (R-N.M.) said at a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing that the government should implement a nuclear fuel recycling program this year. He noted that the question about used fuel management is "the only thing that stands in the way of maximum acceptance of nuclear power."

Comments

Anonymous said…
Come on, Yucca Mountain is an idiotic repository. It's mostly dry ... except when it's not and then it's porous with high water mobility. And putting spent fuel as is, not even immobilized in a non-leachable matrix, full of trans-uranians and just protected by engineered barriers is a recipe for troubles.

The industry should support what is technologically optimal : reprocessing with full actinide recovery and recycling/incineration in fast reactors and fission products disposal as oxides in borated glass matrices in a salt dome (like WIPP) or a clay deposit after a cool-down interim storage for 50 or 100 years.

Oh, and the industry should also ask for its money back from the NWPA waste fund and the nearly $10 billions wasted on Yucca Mountain.

It will need the money to pay for reprocessing and it will be more than the $0.001/kWh sweet deal offered by the NWPA. Or at least, the NWPA looked like a sweet deal for a long time and now the industry is deservingly stuck with its spent fuel after 30 years spent playing the proverbial ostrich.

The charade must end on Yucca Mountain and the NWPA. Time to show a bit of courage to push for reprocessing and a sense of responsibility to pay for it.
Anonymous said…
"The charade must end on Yucca Mountain and the NWPA. Time to show a bit of courage to push for reprocessing and a sense of responsibility to pay for it."

So where are you going to put the vitrified HLW that arises from reprocessing? and the irradiated MOX fuel...you can only reprocess MOX and recycle its Pu once or twice before the isotopics preclude further LWR fuel use.

Even an FBR breeder economy will ultimately produce thousands of tons of waste requiring repository disposal. In that sense, "closing" the fuel cycle is an oxymoron.
Anonymous said…
Anonymous #2,

If you can't understand the difference between actinides and fission products and the constraints they respectively put on geological disposal, you probably should bother commenting on nuclear power. Same thing if you can't understand the difference in leaching behavior between porous UO2 ceramics and borated glass.

Even an FBR breeder economy will ultimately produce thousands of tons of waste requiring repository disposal. In that sense, "closing" the fuel cycle is an oxymoron.

Good god, I wish we had to deal with thousands of tons of waste!

Given that a 1 GWe fast reactor would create about 800 kg of fission products a year, thousands of tons of waste would mean that we are very far along on the path to nuclear powered civilization. That would be awesome news!

Popular posts from this blog

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…