The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a revised version of its consent-based siting process.
DOE will use the process as a guide to site one or more federal consolidated interim storage facilities for the nation’s spent nuclear fuel that will reduce the number of locations where spent nuclear fuel is stored in the future and ultimately ease the burden on U.S. taxpayers.
The new version builds upon DOE’s 2017 draft and includes recent public input and older public comments from the original document. It also features expert reports and lessons learned from global nuclear waste management practices over the last six years.
While both versions focus on a consent-based approach to siting spent nuclear fuel facilities, there are four key updates.
Here’s what’s new.
1. Current focus is on federal consolidated interim storage facilities
New: DOE is focusing on siting one or more federal consolidated interim storage facilities for commercial spent nuclear fuel as a near-term action.
Old: Considered applying a consent-based siting process to different types of nuclear waste management facilities at the same time.
Explanation: The focus on interim storage follows congressional direction to allow for the removal of spent nuclear fuel from reactor sites across the United States and promote new job opportunities in host communities.
DOE will apply lessons learned from this consent-based siting approach to future siting efforts for consolidated interim storage capacity, a permanent disposal pathway, and the transportation infrastructure needed to move spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.
DOE will also continue supporting research and development activities for future permanent disposal options.
2. A Greater emphasis on equity and environmental justice
New: Additional steps were taken to ensure the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of ALL communities to prevent any targeting of underserved and vulnerable communities moving forward.
Old: Embedded fewer considerations of equity and environmental justice in phases of the process.
Explanation: The 2017 draft included criteria related to equity and environmental justice, but DOE strengthened these elements in response to recent public feedback.
Public input also emphasized the importance of intergenerational equity considerations on activities that will occur over long periods of time, such as the management of spent nuclear fuel.
3. Increase host communities' role in developing site-specific assessment criteria
New: Interested communities will have an opportunity to be involved in developing additional site- specific criteria early in the process to ensure that hosting a facility aligns with their goals and interests.
Old: DOE developed initial siting considerations and screening criteria.
Explanation: This builds on the overarching approach to a better community-driven process. Individual communities can now assess impacts on local economic development, labor market, transportation and public safety infrastructure, etc. before deciding to host a facility.
4. Expand consideration of funding opportunities to support community participation
New: The document outlines the potential use of funding opportunities and other resources in each phase of the siting process, including the implementation phase to support community involvement and collaboration in key activities.
Old: Resources were limited to possible funding opportunities in one phase of the process.
Explanation: Additional funding opportunities are intended to support community involvement and collaboration throughout the entire process and are subject to the Annual Budget and appropriations.
DOE plans to issue $26 million in awards in 2023 to provide resources for communities interested in learning more about consent-based siting, the management of spent nuclear fuel, and interim storage facility siting considerations.
The awards will not represent a commitment to host spent nuclear fuel.
The consent-based siting process, by nature, is flexible and adaptive to be able to respond to a community’s needs and preferences. The process document will continue to be revised as DOE learns more from communities, Tribes, States, local governments, and stakeholders.
DOE plans to provide additional opportunities for public dialogue and engagement through its current funding opportunity, upcoming informational webinars, and other activities.
Learn more about DOE’s consent-based siting efforts, and sign up to receive email updates at energy.gov/consentbasedsiting.