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
Planning Information Corporation
When the federal government is obligated to take title to SNF, and the annual rate at which it must pick up waste for transportation to and management at a federally-licensed facility are matters of current legal and legislative controversy:
DOE has argued that acceptance would begin when a federally-licensed facility is available.9 Since current legislation does not authorize construction of a centralized above-ground storage facility in Nevada, and since the suitability of Yucca Mountain as a permanent disposal site is uncertain, a date at which acceptance would begin cannot be specified.
Industry, on the other hand, has argued that the standard contract established by the NWPA requires the federal government to begin acceptance in 1998, in return for payments to the nuclear waste fund of 1 mill per kilowatt hour of nuclear generated electricity.10
This assessment does not specify the acceptance start year; acceptance begins in "year 1" and extends through "year 31". Assuming a 1998 startup year, and the acceptance rate specified in proposed legislation (see below), at least 84,100 MTU of SNF would be accepted by the end of the year 2027 (the 30th acceptance year)—reducing spent fuel in temporary storage to about 850 MTU. This spent fuel, plus about 1,610 MTU generated between 2027 and 2042 (under DOE's no-new-orders, NRC license term forecast4) is included in the "31st acceptance year," though in fact the fuel would be accepted in small quantities over a 22-year period between 2028 and 2050.
Changing the startup year to 2003, 84,100 MTU of SNF would not be accepted until the end of the year 2032 (the 30th acceptance year)—at which point the SNF in temporary storage would be about 1,715 MTU. This spent fuel, plus about 750 MTU generated between 2032 and 2042, is included in the "31st acceptance year", though in fact the fuel would be accepted in small quantities over a 17-year period between 2033 and 2050.
DOE has suggested11 that spent fuel would be accepted at a rate of 400 MTU in the first acceptance year, 600 MTU in the second, and 900 MTU in years three through ten. Only after year 10, other DOE reports12 suggest, would acceptance and pick up increase to 3,000 MTU annually.
By contrast, proposed legislation would require acceptance of at least 1,200 MTU in the first and second acceptance years, 2,000 MTU in the third and fourth acceptance years, 2,700 MTU in the fifth acceptance year, and 3,000 MTU in the sixth and subsequent acceptance years.
This assessment uses the acceptance rate required by proposed legislation. The implication is that at least 9,100 MTU would be accepted for pickup and transport to a centralized storage facility over the first five acceptance years, and 15,000 MTU over each subsequent five-year period. Compared with acceptance rates implied by DOE reports, proposed legislation (e.g., S-1936) would increase pick up by 5,400 MTU over the first five years, by 10,500 MTU over the second five years, and by 3,000 MTU over the third five years.
|SNF Acceptance and Pick Up (MTU)|
|Years 1 - 5||3,700||9,100||5,400|
|Years 6 - 10||4,500||15,000||10,500|
|Years 11 - 15||12,000||15,000||3,000|
|Years 16 - 20||15,000||15,000||0|
|Years 1 - 15||20,200||39,100||18,900|
This assessment assumes that the start date for shipment of canisters of vitrified high-level waste from DOE defense sites in year 15—that is, 15 years after the start date for spent fuel shipments, or 2015 assuming that spent fuel shipments begin in the year 2000. Once begun, this assessment assumes that HLW canisters would be shipped at an annual rate of 800 in the first five years, 900 in the second five, and 600 in subsequent years. At these rates, shipments would continue through 2049, roughly 20 years beyond the conclusion of SNF shipments.
Would a permanent geologic repository be available in year 15 (i.e., in 2015 if SNF shipments begin in the year 2000, in 2025 if SNF shipments begin in 2010), and could or would HLW be shipped to Nevada for centralized above-ground storage while awaiting permanent disposal? The answer is uncertain. The October 1995 settlement agreement between the State of Idaho and the DOE suggests (Section C3) that all HLW as well as naval reactor fuel and foreign research reactor fuel must be moved out of Idaho (i.e., to Nevada) by January 2035, and a possible interpretation of proposed legislation would allow shipment of HLW for centralized above-ground storage if a geologic repository is unavailable. As mentioned, this assessment assumes HLW shipments begin year 15 after the start of SNF shipments, whether the Nevada destination is a centralized storage facility or a permanent repository.