The public will have a chance to comment on the Department of Energy’s latest draft environmental assessment, which explores the possibility of Savannah River Site accepting radioactive fuel and highly enriched uranium from Germany.
According to a statement from the department Friday, a meeting will be held Feb. 4 at the North Augusta Community Center for stakeholders to comment on the assessment, which serves to measure the environmental impact associated
with the material being processed at the South Carolina site.
This particular assessment evaluates the potential impact of the material from Germany, including uranium that originated in the U.S.
A copy of the assessment posted to the Energy Department’s Web site Friday said the spent fuel comes from two German reactors, both of which ceased operations in the late 1980s.
The fuel takes the form of about a million small “irradiated graphite pebble” balls that contain some uranium and thorium and are currently stored in 455 casks.
“Prior to irradiation, the fuel contained approximately 900 kilograms (1,980 pounds) of (highly enriched uranium) provided by the United States,” the notice read.
Germany first approached the Energy Department in 2012 about the possible storage and disposition of the material, and it funded research at the Savannah River National Laboratory that explored ways to process the fuel, capabilities that are “unique to DOE and SRS,” according to the environmental assessment.
Germany would pay the full cost to treat and dispose of the material if the Energy Department accept its, but such a decision wouldn’t come until after the 45-day public comment period, which ends March 7.
Accepting the material would be in support of a national policy that aims to eliminate highly enriched uranium from civil commerce through storage and disposition, and converting it into a form “no longer usable for an improvised nuclear device.”
However, Tom Clements, the director of the nuclear watchdog group SRS Watch, said an August 2013 memo he obtained through an open records request states that at least some of the material from the Julich, Germany, facility is “not of a proliferation concern.”
“The document affirms that the growing concern in South Carolina that SRS is becoming an international nuclear waste dump is legitimate as the document presents no pathway out of SRS for any of the German waste if brought into SRS for reprocessing,” he said.
Transporting the material would likely take 30 shipments over more than three years, according to the assessment.
The Energy Department could choose to take no action, leaving the material in Germany.