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USA government quietly rejects nuclear reprocessing

Perhaps to the disappointment of the AREVA (who emphasized reprocessing as a viable fuel cycle strategy in their blog response), the report seems to go out of its way to minimize the potential role of reprocessing in a future U.S. fuel cycle strategy … should be explicitly constrained to explicitly exclude reprocessing
Sellafield-reprocessing
DOE’s Spent Fuel Strategy: Disappointing for Nuclear Advocates The Energy Collective  by:
Steve Skutnik  January 17, 2013  There is a hallowed tradition in Washington known as the “Friday Document Dump,” in which news and announcements the government wishes to bury are strategically timed for Friday afternoons, when such announcements tend to fall through the cracks of the typical news cycle (i.e., assuming reporters are even present to cover the event, the strategic timing tends to ensure it will miss the weekend papers, thus effectively “burying” the story by the time the new week rolls around).
In this storied tradition, the Department of Energy released the Obama administration’s response to the Blue Ribbon Commission report last Friday to relatively scarce media coverage. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find any coverage in many of the major papers; what little coverage there was can be found in the Washington TimesPlatts(an energy publication), and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. (Needless to say, the timing appears to have had its intended effect).
AREVA’s NextEnergy blog and Nuclear Diner have already posted some of their thoughts on the release, but after reading the DOE’s report I have to say I’ve felt a bit underwhelmed. As a friend remarked, it’s a document “laying out the next set of milestones for the nation’s spent fuel management program to miss.” I wish I could say he was joking.
Some of the major highlights:
  • An emphasis upon a flexible, staged, consent-based process for locating a permanent geologic repository for used nuclear fuel designed to be adaptive to potentially changing circumstances.
  • A new, independent waste disposal organization charged with overseeing used fuel management and disposal, along with legislative action to reform allocation of the Nuclear Waste Fee paid by operators to allow for greater operational flexibility and independence.
  • Short-term emphasis upon siting a pilot interim storage facility for used nuclear fuel, with a triage priority of relocating fuel from decommissioned reactor sites first. Operations would begin in2021.
  • Transitioning toward an operational interim storage site with sufficient capacity to meet the existing federal government’s liabilities under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982; operations to begin in 2025.
  • Making “demonstrable progress” toward locating and characterizing a potential geologic repository with a target operations date of 2048……
Perhaps to the disappointment of the AREVA (who emphasized reprocessing as a viable fuel cycle strategy in their blog response), the report seems to go out of its way to minimize the potential role of reprocessing in a future U.S. fuel cycle strategy … should be explicitly constrained to explicitly exclude reprocessing. Here’s the relevant quote:

In addition, the mission of the MDO will need to be carefully defined. For example, funding made available to the MDO should be used only for the management and disposal of radioactive waste. While this could include the management and disposal of waste resulting from the processing of defense materials, the MDO itself should not be authorized to perform research on, fund or conduct activities to reprocess or recycle used nuclear fuel. These limitations on the MDO mission are consistent with the recommendations of the BRC.

Thus, it would strongly indicate a commitment to a once-through fuel cycle for the time being.
Among other factors cited to support this decision was ORNL research I’d highlighted in my previous post, which indicated that most of the current used nuclear fuel inventory (98%, in fact) could be consigned to direct disposal even assuming a future closed nuclear fuel cycle……

Particularly depressing about the overall strategy is in its relative lack of ambition; a planned operating date for an interim storage site which would happen a mere 27 years after the original timeline obligated by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (and 43 years after the act was first passed), with no repository in sight until I (a relatively young and spry individual at the present) am poised to retire – a full 50 years past the original deadline. …. http://theenergycollective.com/skutnik/173146/department-energy-spent-fuel-strategy-nuclear-energy-disappointing

January 18, 2013 - Posted by | Reference, reprocessing, USA

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