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A concise assessment February 2009 of the Yucca Mountain Status
The following is an opinion piece that was written by Nuclear Energy Institute CEO Marv Fertel concerning U.S. used fuel management policy:
Friday, February 27, 2009 THE ENERGY DAILY www.theenergydaily.com Since Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act in 1982, our nation has been pursuing a path for the ultimate disposal of used nuclear fuel using a once-through fuel cycle. An opportune time to re-evaluate this policy has arrived.
Analyses of the climate change issue by almost all independent organizations show that reducing carbon emissions and meeting our electricity needs will require a portfolio of technologies and that nuclear energy must be part of the portfolio.
Given the clear need for expansion of nuclear energy programs in the United States and worldwide, the nuclear industry proposed two years ago that our nation should revisit the decision to use a once-through fuel cycle and instead pursue a closed fuel cycle that includes recycling. This integrated approach includes at-reactor storage, private sector or government-owned centralized storage, research and development on recycling technology and continued development and licensing of a federal repository.
It is also clear from President Obama’s 2010 budget plan that the administration may not support opening the Yucca Mountain repository even if it receives a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The administration indicated that the Energy Department’s budget will be scaled back to a level necessary to answer questions from the NRC regarding the repository license application.
Given that the Nuclear Waste Policy Act remains the law of the land, and recognizing the legal and moral obligation that the government has to fulfill its responsibility under that law, the industry believes the NRC’s review of the Yucca Mountain license application should continue.
In parallel, the administration should convene an independent panel of the best scientific, environmental, engineering and public policy leaders to fully investigate the critical issues and make a recommendation to President Obama and Congress on how best to proceed with managing used nuclear fuel.
Our approach to developing an integrated nuclear fuel management program includes the following concepts:
First, we recognize that since used nuclear fuel can be safely and securely stored for an extended period of time, interim storage represents a strategic element of an integrated program. Therefore, we can continue on-site storage of used reactor fuel while candidates are identified for volunteer private or government-owned sites for consolidation of used nuclear fuel.
DOE must take title to and consolidate used fuel at private or government centralized storage facilities to begin meeting the federal government’s legal commitment. Initially, centralized facilities should provide storage for reactor fuel from power plants that have been shut down. DOE also needs to address its obligation for the removal and disposal of high-level radioactive waste from government sites.
Second, the federal government should collaborate with the private sector and other countries on a research and development and demonstration program to recycle reactor fuel in a way that is safe, environmentally acceptable, enhances the worldwide nonproliferation regime and makes sense economically. Other countries are looking at recycling as part of their used nuclear fuel management program and the United States should be constructively engaged in this technology development.
Through recycling, we can reclaim and reuse a significant amount of energy that remains in uranium fuel and reduce the heat, volume and toxicity of radioactive byproducts that ultimately will be placed in a repository.
Third, even with a closed fuel cycle, a geologic repository will be needed for the ultimate disposal of the waste byproducts. Licensing of the Yucca Mountain repository should continue, but the characteristics of the waste form requiring disposal will influence the design of the repository. The results of an independent commission’s strategic assessment of the overall approach to used fuel and defense waste management can provide direction in that regard.
If the administration unilaterally decides to abandon the Yucca Mountain project without enacting new legislation to modify or replace existing law, it should expect a new wave of lawsuits seeking further damage payments as well as likely requests for refunding of at least $22 billion already collected from consumers that has not been spent on the program from the Nuclear Waste Fund. Further, given the uncertain path forward for the Yucca Mountain project and the difficult economic times facing American families and businesses, Energy Secretary Steven Chu should reduce the fee paid by consumers to cover only licensing costs incurred by DOE, NRC and local Nevada government units that provide oversight of the program.
During his Senate confirmation hearing, Secretary Chu said his agency has an obligation to provide a plan that allows for safe disposal of used nuclear fuel. Nuclear energy should be part of our energy mix, he said, and “in going forward with that, we do need a plan on how to dispose of that waste safely over a long period of time.”
—Marvin S. Fertel is president and CEO at the Nuclear Energy Institute in Washington, D.C.
Below is A Position Paper Prepared by
THE STATE of NEVADA CONTINUES
Allocating some 4 million to the cause in 2001 . . . they continue to misrepresent the science that designed Yucca Mountain Repository and mislead the citizens of the state! During former Governor Guinn's administration the state created an "Agency for Nuclear Projects", and it employs a full time director. Well actually, it's an ANTI NUCLEAR agency targeted at the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository site.
To exemplify something about snafu's: G. Duarte
If positive accuracy is an imperative concern from the people, politics and media challenging Yucca Mountain, then THEY should APPLY such ACCURACY to themselves in describing the facility as they are using an "incorrect" terminology. The dictionary description of a DUMP: To release or throw down in a large mass to empty (material) out of a container or vehicle to empty out (a container or vehicle), as by overturning or tilting it. None of this dictionary description of the word DUMP accurately describes the documented plan for nuclear waste placed in the Yucca Mountain facility.
REPOSITORY: Is a place where things may be put for safekeeping, a warehouse, a museum, a burial vault; a tomb, etc. This is the proper, correct, accurate term for the nuclear waste casks destined for Yucca Mountain. So, anytime you read or see a publication referring to Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste DUMP it is grammatically incorrect, in-accurate, un-truthful, misleading, etc. If scientific accuracy is a requirement of Yucca Mountain then grammatical accuracy SHOULD be a requirement of those people talking about it!
The Current Yucca Snafu: Peter G. Shaw
In early 2005 the press and “politicians” once again ceased on Yucca Mountain “falsifications” of data via e-mails, etc. In checking into this current snafu this is what we found. There were three things that were going on: 1) a date change or input needed for the updated model from the old version. (This was not even outside DOE regulations) 2) Some emails that were off the record but were negative of the model. 3) Some kind of procedural documentation of sources for the new model.
This is what we found; users at the Yucca site updated software to run the (long-term stability modeling programs I suspect). In doing so, they filled-in bogus information during the software registration (like we all do, as it is not relevant to anyone but the software manufacturer. The “model” is what is important, not the software registration information and the model was not changed.
The documentation (of the model software?) had some irregularities when viewed individually, but due to the dynamic nature of the model to begin with, anytime one looks at one data point out of the context of the entire question being modeled, the results can be misleading. This is the equivalent of noticing barrels on the side of the freeway and saying “Hey, those shouldn’t be there’….without noticing the freeway is under construction. So, when confronted with a question about documentation that seems inconsistent, one must ALWAYS remember that the audience is made up of attorneys…
The whole line of questioning of the “alleged falsifications” is a farce. The Yucca Mountain opponents and politicians have convinced the masses that paranoia is the right road to take. Until the Yucca proponents can prove scientifically, without any room for error, that the site will be stable for the next 10,000 years, and provide hyper-accurate detail for any time frame between now and 10,000 years….like say, February 10, 8005. This requirement as it has been sold is completely unattainable and therefore is used simply to throw everyone off the trail…a red herring. No energy production waste-product on the planet has ever been required to provide 10,000 years of absolute safety.
While we are preventing the establishment of a safe nuclear waste repository for America (within all logical reason), some 32 other countries throughout the world are building Nuclear Power Plants so, we are NOT and never will eliminate nuclear waste, logically we should put our science to work SOLVING the problem not hindering its establishment!
A Sincere effort of Major importance to America-Nuclear Energy!