German nuclear waste could be shipped to Savannah River Site

The federal government has entered into an agreement with Germany to evaluate the possibility of accepting shipments of German highly-radioactive nuclear waste at Savannah River Site.

The U.S. Department of Energy signed a “statement of intent” with German research agencies offering to evaluate accepting, processing and disposing of waste at SRS. No final decision has been made, according to SRS spokesman Jim Giusti.

“All potential work to support DOE’s evaluation would be funded by the German government so the Statement of Intent is an important step forward,” Giusti said in an email this week to SRS stakeholders.

Additional shipments of waste at SRS has drawn opposition from environmentalist Tom Clements, director of watchdog group SRS Watch. SRS already has its own challenges disposing of large amounts of high-level waste existing at the facility, he said.

“The proposal to import highly radioactive spent fuel from Germany to SRS is simply nuclear dumping dressed up as nuclear non-proliferation,” Clements said. “Germany’s challenging dilemma with what to do with its nuclear waste must not become a waste management problem for the Savannah River Site.”

The graphite-based fuel for the German reactor contains U.S.-origin highly enriched uranium. Returning it to the U.S. would remove it from potential use in a nuclear weapon, Giusti said.

The energy department will “prepare appropriate analysis and consult with the public” as part of the National Environmental Policy Act before any decisions on accepting the waste are made, Giusti said.

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