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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."


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 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!

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