When the U.S. Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (BRC) issued its final report to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in January 2012, among its eight key recommendations was the following recommendation regarding new consolidated storage facilities for SNF.
“Prompt efforts should be pursued by the US government to establish a program that leads to the timely development of one or more federal facilities for the consolidated, long-term storage of SNF on a regional or national basis that meet high standards of safety and security over multi-decade time periods.”
Chapter 5 of the BRC Report expanded upon this recommendation with the following findings related to SNF storage.
- “Today’s institutional arrangements and storage technologies were not designed for the lengthy storage timescales that now appear inevitable for at least some portion of the nation’s SNF inventory.”
- “A storage facility or facilities can be developed in a stepwise manner as the need for expansion of capacity and capability becomes clearer. The initial cost to site, design and license a storage facility, which should take a few years to a decade to complete, should be less than $100 million.”
- “Work toward a consolidated storage facility can begin immediately under the existing provisions of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA). Further legislative action would not be needed prior to the designation of a monitored retrievable storage (MRS) facility site (and potentially not until the construction phase), at which time Congress would need to amend the NWPA to allow construction to go forward independent of the status of a permanent repository.”
Chapter 5 of the BRC Report also included several suggestions for implementing its broader recommendation for one or more consolidated SNF storage facilities:
- “Specific steps that can be taken in the near-term including performing the systems analyses and design studies needed to develop a conceptual design for a highly flexible, initial federal SNF storage facility, assembling information that would be helpful to the siting process for such a facility, and working with nuclear utilities, the nuclear industry, and other stakeholders to promote standardization of dry cask storage systems with an eye to facilitating later transport and consolidation in centralize storage and/or disposal facilities.”
- “Research may be needed to identify unanticipated problems with extended fuel storage, such as unexpected corrosion rates, and will help ensure that problems are detected and appropriately mitigated if they emerge. In addition, it will be important to continue exploring fuel degradation mechanisms in dry storage, particularly since many current safety assessments are based on an examination of fuel with lower burnup than is now standard and do not account for storage times of the length now being contemplated.”
- “SNF stored at shutdown reactor sites should be ‘first in line’ for transfer to a consolidated storage facility. This would be a change from the current ‘queue’ that ships the oldest fuel first (OFF) to a geologic repository for disposal.”
- “The consolidated storage facility should include laboratory and hot cell facilities that provide an excellent platform for ongoing research and development to better understand how the storage systems currently in use at both commercial and DOE sites perform over time. In addition, the consolidated storage facility should provide flexible, safe and cost-effective fuel handling and recovery services, including repackaging and sorting of SNF for final disposal – which would be particular useful for SNF stored at shutdown nuclear power plants that have no fuel pools to provide such services.”