Originally created 03/30/06

SRS to make case for reusing nuclear fuel



AIKEN - Officials want Savannah River Site to be considered for a demonstration facility that would reprocess nuclear fuel, a key part of President Bush's push to spread nuclear energy.

The private company that manages SRS, Washington Savannah River Co., will apply to participate in the Department of Energy's "Global Nuclear Energy Partnership" by the Friday deadline, spokesman Will Callicott said Tuesday.

The Energy Department is looking for sites to demonstrate advanced recycling technologies that would capture larger amounts of radioactive fuel for commercial reactors. The proposed facilities would leave behind less waste, a thorny issue for the nuclear industry because millions of gallons of leftovers sit idle at commercial power plants across the country.

Then-President Carter put an end to the reprocessing of nuclear fuels in the 1970s. There were fears that the radioactive fuel it left behind would fall into the wrong hands.

That is where Washington's planned partner Southern Carolina Alliance comes in. A group of companies spent about $300 million on a commercial reprocessing facility, just outside SRS gates in Barnwell County, that could never get licensed under the Carter Administration, said Danny Black, the president of the alliance, which represents Barnwell and three surrounding counties.

His organization tried unsuccessfully to market the facility.

"They basically mothballed it," Mr. Black said.

He doubted the outdated facility was well-suited for the project but said SRS's F-Canyon, which is inactive but used to reprocess nuclear materials, is a great fit.

"To me, it is probably the premiere site in the world," he said.

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or josh.gelinas@augustachronicle.com.

CONTRACT AT STAKE


The U.S. Energy Department will announce this summer whether Savannah River Site is selected to prepare a site study for a proposed nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, a contract worth $5 million.

SRS stands to get more money if selected to build a plant. The Energy Department says it wants to spend billions of dollars on reprocessing technology in coming years.



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