International Fuel Services and Commercial Engagement

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The Office of International Nuclear Energy Policy and Cooperation (INEPC) primary mission is to oversee and manage the Department’s international commercial nuclear fuel management initiatives, and to support Departmental/USG initiatives supporting advocacy for U.S. nuclear exports, including the Team USA initiative. INEPC also supports advancing international civil nuclear policy through the development of innovative approaches to used fuel storage and permanent disposition, including commercially-based comprehensive fuel services and financing vehicles.

Program Focuses

To achieve these goals, INEPC has taken a leadership role in the following:

  • Leading U.S. government engagement to advance CFS as an option for the safe and secure management of spent fuel and radioactive waste in international forums, including the IAEA Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.
  • Exploring commercial-based international and regional alternatives to indigenous development of long-term storage, recycling, and permanent disposition of high-level radioactive waste and used fuel.
  • Providing support to “Team USA,”  an interagency effort led by the National Security Staff to make U.S. suppliers and service providers more competitive in the international environment.

INEPC supports these priorities by:

  • Advancing U.S. civil nuclear energy policy and technical objectives through engagement on international commercial nuclear matters to foster the safe, reliable and environmentally sustainable use of nuclear energy while minimizing the risks of proliferation and supporting US commercial nuclear energy exports and domestic jobs creation.
  • Defining appropriate roles for government involvement in a market-based approach.
  • Identifying options for addressing regulatory, institutional and financial barriers.
  • Identifying and analyzing economic conditions under which an avoided cost approach can function effectively.
  • Focusing on interim storage opportunities, recognizing that their availability could be crucial to successful implementation of the CFS concept.
  • Assessing the impact (e.g., commercial, nonproliferation, etc.) of existing or potentially new options on U.S. and/or global nuclear enterprise.
  • Directing analyses and development of recommendations on issues relating to commercial fuel contracts requiring government assurances of fuel supply and/or interim storage and other aspects of comprehensive commercially-based management of fuel services.
  • Fostering increased U.S. exports of nuclear fuel and services, as appropriate.

Current Engagement

INEPC encourages international cooperation between governments and industry to provide commercially attractive fuel service options, including a comprehensive nuclear fuel services (CFS) approach. INEPC advances the concept through bilateral and multilateral engagement with governments and/or industry participants. It regularly meets with representatives of other governments to explore the CFS concept, particularly how it might provide solutions to a country’s more intractable fuel cycle problems, such as the disposition of high-level waste and used fuel. Similarly, the office has met with nuclear vendors to determine how they might participate within a CFS framework, including possible interim storage, fuel leasing and disposal services. It is also exploring financial concepts that might encourage the international development of regional or international repositories.

In his 2009 Prague speech, the President proposed a new international framework for nuclear cooperation based upon an approach that does not deny the rights of nations in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations. CFS could be a key element by enabling access to nuclear energy while minimizing the risks of proliferation. CFS would provide competitive, commercially-based services as an alternative to a state’s development of costly, proliferation-sensitive facilities, and address other issues associated with the safe and secure management of used fuel and radioactive waste. CFS encourages a wide range of options for the customer and the supplier, including fuel leasing, regional or internationally-managed interim storage facilities, and permanent disposition of used fuel with the supplier or a third party. CFS is being explored in IFNEC and the Joint Convention.

In September 2011 the IFNEC Executive Committee directed that a discussion paper on the benefits and challenges regarding CFS be developed. Completed in January 2013, the paper explores existing options internationally for storage and disposal of used fuel and radioactive waste and suggests a path forward using a model agreement approach to address key issues.  The next meeting of the Reliable Nuclear Fuel Services Working Group (RNFSWG) will occur April 16, 2013 in Vienna, Austria. The meeting will focus on the development of a model agreement that could address the issues identified in the recently finalized CFS paper; finalization of a draft paper that explores international current practices in the nuclear fuel cycle; and preparations for the next meeting which will be a CFS workshop with industry later this year.

In May 2012 the United States proposed CFS as a safe and secure approach to the management of used fuel and radioactive waste during the Fourth Review Meeting of the Joint Convention. The Contracting Parties agreed the concept merited further discussion, and will pursue the concept at a follow on meeting in October 2013, in Vienna, Austria.