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Categorization of Used Nuclear Fuel Inventory in Support of a Comprehensive National Nuclear Fuel Cycle Strategy

The Office of Nuclear Energy has conducted a technical review and assessment of the total current inventory [~70,150 MTHM as of 2011] of domestic discharged used nuclear fuel (UNF) and estimated an amount to be considered for retention in support of research, development, demonstration, and national security interests. The study recognizes that: 1) access to some amount of UNF is needed to support RD&D; 2) the two principal options for addressing UNF management are geologic disposal and recycling, and 3) U.S. nuclear power plants will continue to discharge ~2000 MTHM annually for the next couple of decades. Considerable variation in the UNF characteristics exist (e.g., fuel assembly and cladding materials, initial enrichment, discharge burnup, and irradiation exposure conditions) in the current UNF inventory, and the character of future UNF will differ. Selected waste management alternatives and impacts are examined with focus on future access to “waste” materials for RD&D purposes in support of the development of a comprehensive national fuel cycle strategy.