New Start for US Nuclear Disposal

From World Nuclear News

A new waste disposal strategy was announced on 10 January by Stephen Chu, head of the Department of Energy (DoE). He underlined the importance of nuclear energy to the US power system which counts 104 operating nuclear reactors. Safe management and disposal of highly radioactive used reactor fuel as well as similar military wastes “must remain a national priority” in order to “ensure that nuclear power remains part of our diversified clean-energy portfolio,” he said.

America’s new strategy would see a ‘pilot interim store’ being operation in 2021, with a focus on taking used nuclear fuel from current shut down power plant sites. By 2025 a larger ‘full-scale interim store’ would open, and by 2048 an underground disposal facility should be in place to permanently store and dispose of the material. The facilities could be co-located in any combination or sited separately – all depending on the expressed will of American people. There could even be more than one underground disposal site.

The schedule is meant to reduce the growth of the federal government’s liabilities under the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act, under which it was meant to begin taking used reactor fuel from power companies in 1998. As it is, some 68,000 tonnes of used reactor fuel reside at 72 different power plant sites across the country, with the DoE repeatedly reimbursing power companies for the cost of this. The two interim facilities will accept used reactor fuel at a rate faster than the 2000 tonnes per year it is being produced by the power industry in order to gradually draw down the backlog, said the DoE. “The sooner that legislation enables progress on implementing this strategy, the lower the ultimate cost will be to taxpayers,” it said.

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