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The Idaho Settlement Agreement also links receipt of limited amounts of commercial SNF for research to precise milestones and deadlines. Because of two missed milestones (one related to shipping treated waste from Idaho to the Waste Isolation Pilot Project - WIPP), SNF for research is currently (February 2017) not allowed to be shipped to INL.

"Spent nuclear fuel” is the fuel removed from nuclear reactor cores when it becomes too depleted. The pelletized fuel is contained in cylindrical containers referred to as fuel rods. The U.S. Department of Energy describes spent fuel “as a resource until such time as it is declared a waste and is dispositioned to an operating repository.”

The SNF currently stored in Idaho has different origins; nuclear engineering research, and nuclear-powered military vessels and commercial nuclear power units. No matter the origin, the standard procedure for SNF management is to place the very hot fuel assemblies in cooling basins/pools and later transfer it into above-ground heavily-shielded storage casks.

The Idaho Settlement Agreement (ISA) of 1995 identified an inventory of spent fuel that was required to be transitioned by two deadlines, one in 2010 and another in 2023. At one time, EM was managing SNF at 11 different facilities at INL. Begun in 1997 and completed by 2005, SNF at those 11 facilities was consolidated into one location, the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center, more known by its acronym – INTEC. By the 2010 deadline, all of the EM-managed spent nuclear fuel had been transitioned through wet storage cooling pools and into dry storage.

EM is currently working with the Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) to remove the remaining fuel from the Experimental Breeder Reactor (EBR-II) and the Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) out of the spent fuel basins at CP-666 and into dry storage by the Settlement deadline of 2023. The fuel from the EBR-II will be transferred to the Materials and Fuels Complex (MFC) for treatment or to dry storage at INTEC. The fuel from the ATR will be transferred to INTEC for dry storage.

As of June, 2016 Environmental Management was managing 265 Metric Tons of Heavy Metal (MTHM) spent fuel in Idaho and another 15 MTHM of spent fuel still located at the closed Ft. Saint Vrain plant north of Denver.

A limited amount of commercial reactor SNF has been moved to Idaho for research related to the research mission of the Office of Nuclear Energy (NE). Other commercial reactor fuel, along with contaminated debris, was moved to Idaho following the accident at the Three-Mile Island nuclear power plant.

The Navy SNF from its ships is an ongoing source of SNF coming to Idaho. When a nuclear-powered ship is “re-fueled,” its spent fuel is sent from the shipyard to Idaho via railcars. The ongoing mission to send Navy SNF to Idaho has generated a proposal for DOE to replace its 50-plus-year-old cooling pool with an updated version needed to meet design standards partially related to new SNF containers.

The Idaho Settlement Agreement also links receipt of limited amounts of commercial SNF for research to precise milestones and deadlines. Because of two missed milestones (one related to shipping treated waste from Idaho to the Waste Isolation Pilot Project - WIPP), SNF for research is currently (February 2017) not allowed to be shipped to INL.

Further, the ISA requires that by January 1, 2035 most SNF, including Navy SNF and Three-Mile Island SNF is removed from Idaho. The Navy can continue to ship additional SNF to Idaho to be cooled in the proposed new facility for six-years. Then, it must be moved to dry storage and shipped out of Idaho.

Dear Reader: You may now be asking “Out of Idaho to where?” Unknown. Currently, there is no agreed-upon interim or semi-permanent storage or disposal site for SNF.

Betsy McBride
Member of Idaho Cleanup Project Citizens Advisory Board, aka the CAB
bmcbride@ctcweb.net

p.s. Thank you to staff who patiently answered my detailed questions.