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Deal to build nuclear facility is dead

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The U.S. Energy Department made official Monday its plan to scrap a Bush administration initiative that could have brought a major nuclear fuel reprocessing facility to South Carolina.

Economic developers, however, say the cancellation of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership - published in Monday's Federal Register - doesn't mean Barnwell County and Savannah River Site won't win a similar venture in the future.

"At this point, GNEP, as a concept, is dead, but the issue of what to do with this material isn't," said Danny Black, the president of Southern Carolina Alliance, a regional economic development consortium based in Barnwell.

The GNEP program, unveiled in 2006, was a plan to reprocess spent commercial nuclear fuel to reduce waste and prevent its exploitation for nuclear weapons.

Two of the 11 sites proposed for such reprocessing centers were in South Carolina, and both of those sites remain strong contenders for future projects, Mr. Black said.

"Now you have 11 sites around the country that have all been vetted and analyzed to the 'n' th degree for reprocessing, storage, all those kinds of things," he said. "Those sites are still very valuable for that purpose."

South Carolina's sites include the $300 million Allied General Nuclear Services facility in Barnwell, built in the 1970s but mothballed by the Carter administration. Savannah River National Laboratory also received a federal grant to develop siting proposals.

Mr. Black noted that DOE also plans to abandon a 27-year, $13.5 billion effort to establish a permanent nuclear waste repository in Nevada's Yucca Mountain - a move that elevates the need for an alternative facility.

"So as far as we're concerned, GNEP may have gone away, but the need to recycle spent fuel in this country is more important than ever because of the government's stupid decision to close Yucca Mountain," he said.

The expected surge in the demand for commercial nuclear power will create a comparable increase in spent fuel that will require disposition, he said. Currently, much of that fuel is stored at commercial nuclear power plants.

"I think we are, as much as we can be, still optimistic," he said. "We are even more optimistic because, at this point, there is no alternative. Without Yucca Mountain, the pressure is on the industry to do more with recycling. And of course, we can do it here."

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

From federal register:

"Via this notice, DOE announces that it has decided to cancel the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement because it is no longer pursuing domestic commercial reprocessing, which was the primary focus of the prior Administration's domestic GNEP program. The Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009, provides

$145 million for the continuation of research and development (R&D) on proliferation-resistant fuel cycles and waste management strategies. As described in the President's Fiscal Year 2010 budget request, the Department's fuel cycle R&D's focus is on "long-term, science-based R&D of technologies with the potential to produce beneficial changes to the manner in which the nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear waste is managed.''

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LEO
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LEO 06/30/09 - 06:41 am
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Sounds to me like the DOE is

Sounds to me like the DOE is toeing the Obama line. It looks like more money is going to be thrown at R&D to keep the rolls of government contractors filled, rather than implementing the recycling plan which has been vetted, vetted and vetted again. Could the last line of this article be more ambiguous, and a prime example of blowing smoke up you know where?

patriciathomas
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patriciathomas 06/30/09 - 06:59 am
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Not processing the spent fuel

Not processing the spent fuel is a great idea for a 1 term prezbho. How far sighted of him to throw away all of the research of a previous administration just to show who has the power now. I guess there are "friends" that need the money more. We can't vote this fool out of office soon enough.

SCGAL53
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SCGAL53 06/30/09 - 07:16 am
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Wouldn't that have created

Wouldn't that have created jobs? Some "change". What an idiot!

SCEagle Eye
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SCEagle Eye 06/30/09 - 08:48 am
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Good to see the program which

Good to see the program which would dump massive amounts of nuclear waste at SRS has hit a big bump. Those who were looking to make a bundle off the tax payer by dumping spent fuel at SRS for "reprocessing" will have to take a slower approach and the public will be watching. We in South Carolina don't want a few jobs if it means we are stuck with a load of deadly radioactive waste on the banks of the Savannah River. Let's find some clean jobs funded from private money & get big brother out of SRS.

LEO
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LEO 06/30/09 - 09:10 am
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Whether you like it or not,

Whether you like it or not, Big Brother WILL be involved in SRS, simply by virtue of it being a Federal complex. But in the case of what to do with the nuclear waste, this has been the issue since the dawn of the nuclear age. Something has to be done with it, and SRS has the potential capabilities to process the material in a safer manner than what was traditionally done - which ranged from burying it in cardboard boxes, to encasing it in concrete or glass. This is something we HAVE to deal with, whether it is at SRS or some other facility in the country. But as we stand now, however, the US Government is going to be making a bundle off the taxpayer by continuing 'research'.

JohnnyYuma
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JohnnyYuma 06/30/09 - 10:15 am
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Research of a previous

Research of a previous administration is what we voted out! And remember, you couldn't vote your fool in the last time, so what makes you think it'll happen this time!

The Knave
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The Knave 06/30/09 - 01:15 pm
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Here comes patriciathomas

Here comes patriciathomas again, mumbling and grumbling and blathering all manner of incomprehensible political-speak. FINALLY, there is a DOE chief that is not a professional political hack, but rather an eminent scientist (can you say Nobel-prize winner?) who actually has the intelligence and experience to make sensible recommendations and decisions. So, he's saying "stop the madness and wasteful spending" and let's trying doing something rational for a change. Hey, it may not work, but it's been so long since it was attempted, let's give it a try. Now, The Shrub was inclined to favor the solutions offered by his frat-boy alliance. All that silliness related to science and engineering principles was just plain unnecessary and got in the way of cowboy-style decision making. patriciathomas of course longs for the bad-old-days when blind and total loyalty to The Shrub, political dogmatism, anti-science Christian religious fundamentalism, and wealth were the primary qualifying criteria for appointment to senior government positions.

jack
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jack 06/30/09 - 03:03 pm
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Knave, why do you blah, blah,

Knave, why do you blah, blah, blah? Where exactly should this material be reprocessed? It DOES have to be reprocessed and dealt with some hwere so why not SRS? BTW, who exactly were those "frat-boy buddies" you accused Bush of using for the research?

dellaguya
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dellaguya 06/30/09 - 05:42 pm
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I have no vested interest in

I have no vested interest in the location of a federal reprocessing facility. I holds a BS, MS, and PhD in nuclear engineering so I do have a vested interest in a comprehensive US energy policy that includes nuclear power and finally closes the fuel cycle. I have worked in the industry for 25 years and have been writing a blog regarding the Nuclear Rennaissance on the science website RedOrbit, so I consider myself current on the relevant facts. Historically the DOE (pronounced Duh) taxed electricity from nuclear plants 31 BILLION dollars to dig a hole in the ground at Yucca Mountain. President Jimmy Carter made reprocessing illegal in the US back in the '70s, so 95% of the material that COULD be used to power nuclear reactors was slated to be buried. That material is hazardous for 10s of thousands of years. The GNEP would have allowed reprocessing to recover valuable fuel material, and also allowed "burning" the hazardous actinides in breeder reactors so it is only hazardous for hundreds of years and the volume is reduced 95%! The fuel cycle was also designed to be proliferation resistant.

dellaguya
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dellaguya 06/30/09 - 06:42 pm
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Currently the Nuclear

Currently the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing applications for 26 NEW nuclear reactors. There are currently 104 reactors operating in the US. The spent fuel inventory from over 40 years of operations is about 65,000 metric tons. With the dual announcement to end the GNEP (which represented the culmination of 50 years of scientific research) and Yucca Mountain (which was only designed to hold 77,000 metric tons of waste), the USA has no national means for handling its nuclear waste short of shipping it over seas for reprocessing. It is currently stored at the plants across the country providing terrorist targets. Going to the DOE for a solution to the nuclear waste issue is obviously a fool’s errand, as they have a track record of wasting billons and delivering nothing.

The House of Representatives Energy Act issued Friday mandates 20% of our energy must come from renewable sources by 2020. Low income earners get a direct cash handout to offset the anticipated sky rocketing energy costs. The driving force is to reduce green house gas (GHG) emissions to 17% of 2005 levels. Cheaper nuclear power has ZERO GHG emmissions. Hopefully the Senate will wisely modify the bill.

SCEagle Eye
993
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SCEagle Eye 06/30/09 - 07:18 pm
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Actually, the so-called

Actually, the so-called "closed fuel" cycle connected to reprocessing and plutonium breeder is wide open and has multiple waste streams which are much harder to deal with that intact spent fuel. There is high-level liquid waste that must be stored in tanks, low-and intermediate-level waste, some of which is dumped, dirty, contaminated uranium which is generally not & can't be reused, and discharge of noble gases such as krypton to the atmosphere.

Please explain how all those waste streams, which could be generated at SRS here in South Carlina if spent fuel and reprocessing comes this way, makes this a "closed" system. That sucker is wide, wide open! Bets spent fuel option for now is storage in hardened,on-site casks. Don't break that fuel open and cause a real mess!

FallingLeaves
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FallingLeaves 07/01/09 - 02:06 am
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So do the people that applied

So do the people that applied for positions at the job fair have any prospects left?

BMused
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BMused 07/01/09 - 05:01 pm
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The headline seems

The headline seems over-reaching. Was there ever a "deal" that is now labeled as dead? My understanding was that there were more than ten expressions of interest or proposals. Those aren't deals.

From my perch here in DC, it seemed that the traveling DOE/State team sold their guazy vision of GNEP better overseas than with the skeptical Congress. Let's recognize that Congress is not good at paying today for benefits 20 or more years.

We also did not hear the politicians in full voice braying at the GNEP plan that would have imported spent fuel into the US for reprocessing and disposing of the residue here.

MtnMan
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MtnMan 07/06/09 - 07:32 pm
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Now I know PatriciaThomas is

Now I know PatriciaThomas is a male...

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