The Transportation of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste

A Systematic Basis for Planning and Management at the National, Regional, and Community Levels

2.   The Inventory of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Waste

The radioactive wastes which require geologic disposal and which could be shipped to a centralized storage facility at the Nevada Test Site (Area 25) to await permanent disposal are in three broad categories: SNF from commercial power plants, HLW from the nation's defense complex, and other wastes requiring geologic disposal. It is convenient to consider the current and projected inventory of these wastes with reference to their key relevant information sources. This, however, introduces some minor anomalies. For example, a portion of research and miscellaneous spent fuel is included in the current inventory of commercial SNF, since it is included in the key information source (prioritized spent fuel discharges) for this category. Also, the consideration of other wastes requires special attention to avoid double-counting.

2.1   Spent Nuclear Fuel from Commercial Plants

The Current SNF Inventory

Through November 1994, 30,044 metric tons of SNF had been permanently discharged from U.S. reactors, and had received priority ranking for acceptance by DOE (see Table 2-1). Of the November 1994 total,

Ranked spent fuel discharges do not include naval reactor fuel, foreign research fuel, or spent fuel discharged from defense reactors. Nor does it include the HLW that have accumulated at defense sites.

The Future SNF Inventory

DOE has projected annual spent fuel discharges from 1994 through 2042 at commercial reactors,4 under a case which assumes no-new-reactor orders and operations through the current NRC license term (with no early shut downs and no license extensions). The projected discharges include 56,655 MTU in 19,900 BWR and 36,800 PWR assemblies.

In this assessment, 1994 discharges are the "actuals" reported in DOE's 1995 Acceptance Priority Ranking through November 28, 1994. The differences between the actuals for 1994 and DOE's 1994 projections are included in the projected discharges for 1995, so that the projections for 1994 through 2042 are consistent with DOE's forecast for the no-new-orders, NRC license term case.

DOE's forecast is presented by the reactor from which the assemblies are discharged. This assessment identifies the pool location (separate, shared, or joined) to which the fuel would be discharged, but does not attempt to project future transfers of spent fuel to onsite dry storage facilities or to pools at other sites owned by the same utility or others.

The Total SNF Inventory

Combining projected spent fuel discharges with those through November 28, 1994, the total inventory includes 86,699 MTU in 30,700 BWR and 55,900 PWR assemblies. This total, however, does not include projections of spent fuel from research reactors, or projected naval reactor fuel, foreign research fuel, or HLW from defense facilities.

Alternative Inventory Projections

Alternative projections of waste requiring geologic disposal could be considered in alternative scenarios. Some of the contingencies that might be considered in alternative scenarios are briefly discussed below:

2.2   High-Level Wastes from the Defense Complex

High-level waste is generated by the chemical reprocessing of spent research and production reactor fuel, irradiated targets and naval propulsion fuel. It exists in a variety of physical or chemical forms, all of which must be stored behind heavy shielding and usually in underground tanks or bins. Since DOE decided in 1992 to phase out the domestic reprocessing of irradiated nuclear fuel for the recovery of enriched uranium or plutonium, little additional generation of HLW is expected.

Current DOE plans are to immobilize HLW through a vitrification process, and to package it in canisters for storage at the four sites where it was produced (Hanford, INEL, Savannah River, West Valley) and for shipment to the geologic repository for disposal. The canisters are expected to be about 2 feet in diameter and from 10 to 15 feet in length. However, since pretreatment and waste minimization processes at the INEL and Hanford sites have not yet been finalized, the dimensions and number of canisters to be produced from those sites is less certain than at Savannah River and West Valley.

DOE's Integrated Data Base Report5 (the source for the above summary) provides a projection of the number of canisters of HLW expected to be produced at each of the four sites, noting that "projected inventories. . .(are) based on certain assumptions, and therefore should be considered only as current best estimates." An alternative projection, with substantially higher production estimates for Hanford and INEL, is provided in DOE's Waste Management Programmatic EIS7 This assessment combines the canister production rate from the first source with the canister production totals from the second (Figure 2-1). It is assumed that the canisters would be stored at the sites where they are produced, awaiting shipment to a centralized storage or permanent disposal facility.

2.3   Other Wastes Requiring Geologic Disposal

A variety of other radioactive wastes require permanent geologic disposal. Under DOE waste management plans or DOE agreements with states such as Idaho, these wastes could be shipped to a centralized above-ground facility for storage while awaiting permanent disposal. A recent DOE document8 provides the best available information on the inventory of such wastes, which could total about 2,700 MTU, about 9.0 percent of the commercial spent fuel discharged through November 1994. This section briefly discusses the categories and projected inventory of "other wastes requiring geologic disposal," but the schedule, packages, and routes by which they would be shipped to Nevada are not included in this assessment.


Table 2-1. Spent Nuclear Fuel: Discharges, Assemblies, MTIHM
Current Inventory: Discharges Through November 28, 1994
Future Additions: Discharges 1995 through 2042

 


  DISCHG ASSMBL MTU MTU/A LBS/A A/DSCHG MTU/D
CURRENT: ------ ------ ------ ----- ------ ------- -----
BWR 411 59418 10809 0.182 364 145 26
PWR 843 44602 19149 0.429 859 53 23
               
HTG 6 2208 24 0.011 22 368 4
RSC 32 72 3 0.044 89 2 0
MSC 3 0 59 NA 0 0 NA
  ------ ------ ------ ----- ------ ------- -----
SUM 1295 106300 30044 0.283 565 82 23
               
FUTURE: ------ ------ ------ ----- ------ ------- -----
BWR 1872 110257 19873 0.180 360 59 11
PWR 3552 84915 36782 0.433 866 24 10
               
HTG 0 0 0 NA 0 NA NA
RSC 0 0 0 NA 0 NA NA
MSC 0 0 0 NA 0 NA NA
  ------ ------ ------ ----- ------ ------- -----
SUM 5424 195172 56655 0.290 581 36 10
               
TOTAL: ------ ------ ------ ----- ------ ------- -----
BWR 2283 169675 30682 0.181 362 74 13
PWR 4395 129517 55931 0.432 864 29 13
               
HTG 6 2208 24 0.011 22 368 4
RSC 32 72 3 0.044 89 2 0
MSC 3 0 59 NA 0 0 NA
  ------ ------ ------ ----- ------ ------- -----
SUM 6719 301472 86699 0.288 575 45 13
  ======== ======== ======== ======== ======== ======== =======

 

  DISCHG ASSMBL MTU MTU/A LBS/A A/DSCHG MTU/D
  ------ ------ ------ ----- ------ ------- -----
BWR: Current 411 59418 10809 0.182 364 145 26
Future 1872 110257 19873 0.180 360 59 11
Total 2283 169675 30682 0.181 362 74 13
               
PWR: Current 843 44602 19149 0.429 859 53 23
Future 3552 84915 36782 0.433 866 24 10
Total 4395 129517 55931 0.432 864 29 13
               
HTG: Current 6 2208 24 0.011 22 368 4
Future 0 0 0 NA 0 NA NA
Total 6 2208 24 0.011 22 368 4
               
RSC: Current 32 72 3 0.044 89 2 0
Future 0 0 0 NA 0 NA NA
Total 32 72 3 0.044 89 2 0
               
MSC: Current 3 0 59 NA 0 0 NA
Future 0 0 0 NA 0 NA NA
Total 3 0 59 NA 0 0 NA
               
SUM: Current 1295 106300 30044 0.283 565 82 23
Future 5424 195172 56655 0.290 581 36 10
Total 6719 301472 86699 0.288 575 45 13
  ======== ======== ======== ======== ======== ======== =======

Source: DOE Acceptance Priority Ranking: Nov 28, 1994
Spent Fuel Storage Req: 1994-2042 (Tables B.1a & 1b),
via PIC: DISCHG, ACCPT94V, ACCPT95X


Figure 2-1a. Cumulative Projected Production of HLW Canisters at West Valley, Savannah River, Hanford, and Idaho National Engineering Lab

Figure 2-1a


Figure 2-1b. Cumulative Projected HLW Canisters—Shipped and Remaining at Production Sites

Figure 2-1b

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