DOE outlines nuclear waste strategy

  • Posted: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 7:10 a.m.

Without a mention of Yucca Mountain, the Department of Energy has outlined its plan for the future of nuclear waste, including a geological repository to be in place by 2048 and a significant focus on building where repositories are wanted.

DOE released a report Friday, outlining its strategy for the management and disposal of used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste, much of which is currently being stored at the Savannah River Site in Aiken.

The strategy states that it is not rigid, but rather it “provides a basis for the Administration to work with Congress to design and implement a program to meet the government’s obligation.”

The DOE strategy report “provides near-term steps to be implemented by DOE pending enactment of new legislation.” This includes a three-stage plan to be addressed over the next 10 years.

The first stage recommends building a pilot storage facility with limited capacity and having it operational by 2021, to store used nuclear fuel from reactors that have ceased operating.

The second stage is a full-scale temporary storage facility to be advanced, which would be constructed to receive more spent fuel rods by 2025. This facility could be located with the pilot facility or geologic repository, the report states.

The last stage of the plan demands “demonstrable progress” be made on the siting and characterization of repository sites to facilitate the availability of a geological repository by 2048.

Addressing the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, the report has a significant focus on a “consent-based” approach to the siting of interim and permanent geological repositories.

The strategy was developed from the core of the BRC’s findings which were developed over two years by the panel of scientists, nuclear energy experts, industry leaders and former elected officials.

The BRC was given its mission of devising a way forward after the Obama administration zeroed-out funding for the Yucca Mountain project in Nevada, which is still legally the nation’s repository for used commercial nuclear fuel and high-level waste fuel.

The Yucca project and its license application were mothballed following public outcry in Nevada against it, headed by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

“This strategy includes a phased, adaptive and consent-based approach to siting and implementing a comprehensive management and disposal system,” the report reads.

“A consent-based siting process could result in more than one storage facility and/or repository, depending on the outcome of discussions with host communities; the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 envisaged the need for multiple repositories as a matter of equity between regions of the country,” the report continues. “As a starting place, this strategy is focused on just one of each facility.”

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