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Nuclear waste management program deemed ineffective in draft report

Federal report says disposal plan has fallen through

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America's effort to manage a growing inventory of nuclear waste is a costly failure, according to a federal panel created to find alternatives.

FILE - In this April 13, 2006 file photo Pete Vavricka conducts an underground train from the entrance of Yucca Mountain in Nevada.   AP
AP
FILE - In this April 13, 2006 file photo Pete Vavricka conducts an underground train from the entrance of Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

"The U.S. has traveled nearly 25 years down the current path only to come to a point where continuing to rely on the same approach seems destined to bring further controversy, litigation, and protracted delay," the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future concluded in a 192-page draft report issued Friday.

The panel was formed in the wake of the Obama administration's decision to cancel the Yucca Mountain project in Nevada, which was to become the nation's primary and permanent storage site for spent commercial nuclear reactor fuel and defense wastes from Savannah River Site and similar facilities.

After two dozen meetings over a 16-month period, however, the commission concluded that the U.S. still must move forward with a geologic repository, even if new technologies for reprocessing spent fuel are explored or developed. Consolidated interim storage sites also will be needed.

Such steps, the report said, are "the only responsible way" to address the issue, partly because even the best "recycling" or reprocessing option still creates its own waste stream that will require a final disposition.

Because the U.S. Department of Energy "has not inspired confidence or trust" in the nation's nuclear waste programs, the commission suggested creating a federal corporation to "provide stability, focus and credibility" that can put the program back on track.

The organization would be given authority to choose sites; license, build, and operate both interim storage and final disposal facilities; and oversee transportation of nuclear waste to and from those areas.

Although suggestions were made to the commission that the corporation also oversee research and development for new reprocessing technologies, the commission disagreed, adding that there is nothing on the horizon for the next 30 to 40 years that could substantially alter the need for a repository.

Savannah River Site, and in particular its H-Canyon separations facility, has been discussed as a possible venue for reprocessing research. DOE announced this year a plan to scale down its existing operations and to place the area in "standby mode," pending any decisions on a new mission.

The commission also stated that it was not asked to render opinions on the suitability of Yucca Mountain or the controversial effort to abandon that project. It also stated, however, that "current law establishes Yucca Mountain in Nevada as the site for the first U.S. repository for spent fuel and high-level waste."

Currently, spent fuel is stored at the nation's 104 nuclear power plants, including Plant Vogtle, just south of Augusta.

The nationwide inventory of 75,000 tons could expand to 150,000 tons by 2050, even if no more reactors are built. With new plants coming online, the volume would "substantially exceed 200,000 tons" by midcentury.

The urgency to resolve the issue has been accelerated by the Fukushima disaster in Japan, which opened the eyes of the world to the vulnerabilities of spent nuclear fuel, the report added.

What's next?

Comments must be received by Oct. 31 to be considered in the preparation of the Commission's final report, which is due to be delivered to Energy Secretary Steven Chu by Jan. 29, 2012.

From the executive summary:

"America's nuclear waste management program is at an impasse. The Obama Administration's decision to halt work on a repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada is but the latest indicator of a policy that has been troubled for decades and has now all but completely broken down."


Elements of new waste management strategy:

1. A new, consent-based approach to siting future nuclear waste management facilities.

2. A new organization dedicated solely to implementing the waste management program and empowered with the authority and resources to succeed.

3. Access to the funds nuclear utility ratepayers are providing for the purpose of nuclear waste management.

4. Prompt efforts to develop one or more geologic disposal facilities.

5. Prompt efforts to develop one or more consolidated interim storage facilities.

6. Support for continued U.S. innovation in nuclear energy technology and for workforce development.

7. Active U.S. leadership in international efforts to address safety, waste management, nonproliferation and security

Comments (25) Add comment
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Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 07/29/11 - 12:57 pm
0
0
Cost of Yucca Mountain - $90

Cost of Yucca Mountain - $90 Billion. Thanks obama, for wasting our money.

Now consider this. That means if you are one of the 55 million Americans who still pays federal taxes, your cost for Yucca Mountain was $1636. If you are a two income household, your family paid $3272. All for nothing!

I don't know about you folks, but that's a lot of money to me. And obama took that money and threw it down the toilet.

mtxbass1
0
Points
mtxbass1 07/29/11 - 01:08 pm
0
0
Yes, it was Obama's fault

Yes, it was Obama's fault that he is trying to cut something that can be called a twenty five year failure.

Cut out a failure in the government, get chided for throwing away money spent in past years.

Continue to fund a failure in the government, get called out for not expressing financial restraint.

You people crack me up.

Riverman1
83725
Points
Riverman1 07/29/11 - 02:44 pm
0
0
Heck, let's start making

Heck, let's start making bombs again. I've got plently of targets for you. Use the stuff for something if we can't send it to Yucca Mt.

david jennings
590
Points
david jennings 07/29/11 - 04:08 pm
0
0
I thought Harry Reid was a

I thought Harry Reid was a part of the decision to scrap the Yucca depository.

Billyds999
17
Points
Billyds999 07/29/11 - 04:21 pm
0
0
Chillen, I feel that I must

Chillen,
I feel that I must inform you, that your figures are off by a little.
You forgot to include the percentage of your power bill that you have been paying for the last 20 or so years that have been going thru the power companies to the government... The power companies have been required to put money into Yucca research also, and where have they been getting money? Mayby,... part of the power bill you pay...
So we have been double duped!
Vogtle (and other Nuke plants) are still going to have to get rid of their rad waste and spent fuel somewhere. More money out of our pockets...
...just sayin'

TK3
562
Points
TK3 07/29/11 - 05:15 pm
0
0
According to government then

According to government then the consequences of the same actions taken will change if we just change the name and give it another department and budget.

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."Albert Einstein

"Because the U.S. Energy Department “has not inspired confidence or trust” in the nation’s nuclear waste programs, the commission suggested creating a new federal corporation to “provide stability, focus and credibility” that can put the program back on track."

Radwaste
408
Points
Radwaste 07/29/11 - 08:45 pm
0
0
As you might guess, I work at

As you might guess, I work at SRS. Although I am not the official voice of SRS, its contractors or of the Department of Energy, I have to remind you that complaining doesn't solve the problem. Action does.
What *actions* do you recommend, and what *bases* do you have for your assertions?

Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 07/30/11 - 03:48 am
0
0
Has the USDOE nuclear waste

Has the USDOE nuclear waste depository program become a boondoggle* financed at the request of a very special interest group and their highly-paid lobbyists by our tax dollars?

* Everyone knows that the USDOE efforts at SRS are the most efficient and effective known to man. Any effort to call into question the advisability of these efforts is un-American, unpatriotic and socialistic.

SCEagle Eye
914
Points
SCEagle Eye 07/30/11 - 10:15 am
0
0
If you follow the history of

If you follow the history of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act you will know that Yucca mountain was chosen, in part, for political reasons. The whole thing has been tainted by politics from the start; the politics didn't just happen on the back end of this discussion. Due to various technical and geological reasons, such as unexpected water infiltration and seismic activity, it's unclear if Yucca Mtn could even be licensed as a nuclear dump so if you think it can it would be good to know your reasoning on that. One thing is clear, the geology at the Savannah River Site makes it ineligible for spent fuel storage or reprocessing.

Riverman1
83725
Points
Riverman1 07/30/11 - 10:24 am
0
0
SCEagleEye, give me a break.

SCEagleEye, give me a break. The Yucca Mt site is in the remote desert under a mountain, obviously. It was studied by thousands of scientists as being the best available place. Is it absolutely safe...no, but it is the BEST place. Now we have it at places like SRS in things like above ground tanks and even worse by nuclear power plants with flimsy protection where one Katusa rocket could cause a major calamity.

copperhead
1035
Points
copperhead 07/30/11 - 11:21 am
0
0
Didn't H.Reid get the feds to

Didn't H.Reid get the feds to build the waste storage @ yucca mt.?

tabletop
28
Points
tabletop 07/30/11 - 08:06 pm
0
0
Sceagle Eye, how about giving

Sceagle Eye, how about giving us some facts? How many people were killed? When did the last fatality occur? If you can't find one, when was the last drum turned over at Yucca Mt. by an earthquake. Looking forward for you to give us all your knowledge.

SCEagle Eye
914
Points
SCEagle Eye 07/31/11 - 10:25 am
0
0
If you know the answer to

If you know the answer to this question then you know the difficulties of licensing Yucca Mountain: what about the titanium drips shields? If you don't know what this refers to then do you really know the Yucca issue? The Yucca question aside, those who want to bring radioactive spent fuel to SRS and make us the dump for reprocessing waste - Yucca Mountain II - will run into a buzz saw of opposition. Getting the existing SRS waste out in order to bring much more in will see uniform opposition beyond a narrow group of profiteers.

Riverman1
83725
Points
Riverman1 07/31/11 - 10:32 am
0
0
SCEagleEye, I don't mean to

SCEagleEye, I don't mean to criticize you so much because you do offer valid skepticism at times. But it seems pretty cut and dried to me that Yucca Mt. is the BEST solution. You are also right that SRS is becoming Yucca Mt. by default. Something I noted a long time ago.

tabletop
28
Points
tabletop 07/31/11 - 11:49 am
0
0
Thank you SCEagle Eye. I

Thank you SCEagle Eye. I think your answer says it all.

SCEagle Eye
914
Points
SCEagle Eye 08/01/11 - 08:16 am
0
0
Again, there is no evidence

Again, there is no evidence that Yucca Mountain could be licensed by the NRC due to many problems. If so, please produce such evidence based on science (if you believe in science-based decision-making). As others have said, isn't it best to store high-level waste canisters in a reducing, not oxidizing, environment? Which do you think is best for the long-term (not short-term political expediency)? And, would it be better to have water infiltration or not?

Little Lamb
45870
Points
Little Lamb 08/01/11 - 08:31 am
0
0
The present solution to

The present solution to high-level waste storage is concrete casks sitting on concrete pads in the blazing sun at each individual nuclear plant. That is about as "oxidizing" environment as you can get.

Little Lamb
45870
Points
Little Lamb 08/01/11 - 08:36 am
0
0
The "water infiltration"

The "water infiltration" argument against Yucca Mountain is a red herring. The fuel storage area is above all known water tables – that's one reason Yucca Mountain was chosen. The water infiltration scare is a hypothetical scenario posited in the distant future – a "what-if" scenario.

SCEagle Eye
914
Points
SCEagle Eye 08/01/11 - 09:45 pm
0
0
Drip, drip, drip, or not, on

Drip, drip, drip, or not, on to titanium drip shields, put in place, or not, a hundred years from now...

Riverman1
83725
Points
Riverman1 08/01/11 - 09:58 pm
0
0
SCEagleEye, what would YOU do

SCEagleEye, what would YOU do with the waste?

Little Lamb
45870
Points
Little Lamb 08/01/11 - 10:05 pm
0
0
The titanium drip shields are

The titanium drip shields are red herrings.

Little Lamb
45870
Points
Little Lamb 08/01/11 - 10:03 pm
0
0
There is no water. There is

There is no water. There is only postulated water a million years in the future if the earth experiences a cataclysmic event of a magnitude never before experienced in human history.

SCEagle Eye
914
Points
SCEagle Eye 08/02/11 - 09:15 am
0
0
Water infiltration and the

Water infiltration and the titanium drip shields are very real issues and wishing them away didn't work. On-site dry-cask storage for fuel older than about 5 years is the only medium-term option, which is being implemented already, and should be carried out in a more deliberate way to get fuel out of pools. Longer-term, a geologic repository may well be the best option but it's clear siting could be difficult. As for Nevada, many people there think the process which has so far stopped Yucca Mountain has worked well. Above all, no spent fuel should be brought to SRS though special interests are pushing for that. Will anyone who responds here support no more high-level waste to SRS or reprocessing at SRS? It's an easy pledge which separates dumpers from non-dumpers and separates the red herrings from the tiger sharks who will fight to protect South Carolina from future dumping.

Little Lamb
45870
Points
Little Lamb 08/02/11 - 09:04 pm
0
0
Eagle Eye wrote: . . .

Eagle Eye wrote:

. . . Longer-term, a geologic repository may well be the best option . . . .

Well, I'm glad you are coming around. There is no geologic repository in the whole world that could be brought into service faster, cheaper, better, or safer than could Yucca Mountain. Let's let it roll!

Riverman1
83725
Points
Riverman1 08/02/11 - 09:12 pm
0
0
SCEagleEye, thanks for your

SCEagleEye, thanks for your response. But I don't mind high level waste being processed at SRS as long as the final waste is sent to Yucca Mt. which you now agree is not such a bad idea.

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