French firm proposes used nuclear fuel solution at Savannah River Site

COLUMBIA -- A French nuclear company thinks it has a solution for spent nuclear fuel in the United States.


AREVA Federal Services presented last week its concept for an interim storage and recycling facility for used nuclear fuel to the S.C. Governor’s Nuclear Advisory Council.

Paul Murray, technology director for AREVA Federal Services, described a recycling process that would reduce the amount of leftover material to be placed in long-term storage.

Murray projected a diagram onto the committee room wall of a cropping machine with a 1-ton blade, which shears a fuel assembly into small pieces. He said the fuel assembly would then fall down into a rotating dissolver, followed by other steps before fuel is produced. Waste would be turned into a high-level waste glass, suitable for disposal in a geological repository.

But the process is still on the drawing board.

Before the AREVA representative spoke, Council chairman Karen Patterson told those in attendance, “I remind you, it’s only a concept and only one.

“Speaking as a citizen,” she said, “I believe we should begin to learn about the options long before we are faced with a decision.”

Murray said AREVA’s proposed system would match recycling capacity to demand and wouldn’t involve stockpiling plutonium.

Federal leaders have been searching for ways to handle the nation’s spent fuel, which is housed at 104 commercial power reactors across the nation.

The Obama administration canceled plans to place more than 75,000 tons of materials in a deep repository in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain. A Blue Ribbon Commission created afterward said interim storage sites could be used temporarily.

In October AREVA announced it was leading a team of companies chosen by Eddy Lea Energy Alliance, LLC, to start developing the concept of a used nuclear fuel “Consolidated Storage Facility” in southeastern New Mexico.

Meanwhile, Shaw AREVA MOX Services is the contractor that will build and run the nearly $5 billion mixed oxide fuel facility at Savannah River Site.

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Topic page: Savannah River Site