The management of used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste is required for any country using nuclear energy. This includes the storage, transportation, and disposal of low and intermediate level waste (LILW), used nuclear fuel (UNF), and high level waste (HLW). The Used Fuel Disposition Campaign (UFDC), within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Nuclear Energy (NE), Office of Fuel Cycle Technology (FCT), is responsible for conducting research and development pertaining to the management of these materials in the U.S. Cooperation and collaboration with other countries would be beneficial to both the U.S. and other countries through information exchange and a broader participation of experts in the field.
U.S. participation in international UNF and HLW exchanges leads to safe management of nuclear materials, increased security through global oversight, and protection of the environment worldwide. Such interactions offer the opportunity to develop consensus on policy, scientific, and technical approaches. Dialogue to address common technical issues helps develop an internationally recognized foundation of sound science, benefiting the U.S. and participating countries.
The UNF and HLW management programs in nuclear countries are at different levels of maturity. All countries utilizing nuclear power must store UNF, mostly in wet storage, and HLW for those countries that reprocess UNF. Several countries either utilize or plan to utilize dry storage systems for UNF, perhaps for long periods of time (several decades). Geologic disposal programs are at various different states, ranging from essentially “no progress” to selected sites and pending license applications to regulators. The table below summarizes the status of UNF and HLW management programs in several countriesa. Thus, the opportunity exists to collaborate at different levels ranging from providing expertise to those countries “behind” the U.S. to obtaining access to information and expertise from those countries with more mature programs.
The U.S. fuel cycle is a once through fuel cycle involving the direct disposal of UNF, as spent nuclear fuel, in a geologic repository (previously identified at Yucca Mountain, Nevada), following at most a few decades of storage (wet and dry). The geology at Yucca Mountain, unsaturated tuff, is unique among all countries investigating the disposal of UNF and HLW. The decision by the U.S. Department of Energy to no longer pursue the disposal of UNF at Yucca Mountain and possibly utilize very long term storage (approaching 100 years or more) while evaluating future fuel cycle alternatives for managing UNF, presents a different UNF and HLW management R&D portfolio that has been pursued in the U.S. In addition, the research and development activities managed by OCRWM have been transferred to DOE- NE. This requires a reconsideration of how the UFDC will engage in cooperative and collaborative activities with other countries. This report presents the UFDC implementation plan for international activities.
The DOE Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM) has cooperated and collaborated with other countries in many different “arenas” including the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) within the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and through bilateral agreements with other countries. These international activities benefited OCRWM through the acquisition and exchange of information, database development, and peer reviews by experts from other countries. DOE-NE cooperates and collaborates with other countries in similar “arenas” with similar objectives and realizing similar benefits. However the DOE-NE focus has not typically been in the area of UNF and HLW management. This report will first summarize these recent cooperative and collaborative activities.
The manner that the UFDC will cooperate and collaborate in the future is expected to change as R&D is conducted regarding long-term storage and the potential disposal of UNF and HLW in different geologic environments. While some continuation of on-going or recent cooperative and collaborative activities are expected to continue, the approach taken in these activities may be different than past activities given the changes in the U.S. waste management program. In addition, new cooperative and collaborative activities with different scope than in the past may be undertaken. Such potential future cooperative and collaborative activities will be discussed.
The last part of the plan includes the implementation of the UFDC international activities.