. "4 The Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative and Global Nuclear Energy Partnership Programs." Review of DOE's Nuclear Energy Research and Development Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2008.
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Review of Doe’s Nuclear Energy Research and Development Program
go to geologic disposal; short-lived fission products would be stored and ultimately disposed of as low-level waste after sufficient decay. This strategy would use Generation IV fast reactors.
AFCI envisioned that for all fuel cycles, long-lived fission products and residual transuranics would go to geologic disposal. For the last three fuel cycles, short-lived fission products would be managed separately to allow decay heat levels to drop before disposal as waste, either into a high-level waste geologic repository after several decades of interim storage or as low-level waste after approximately 300 years’ storage. Large inventories of transuranics would reside in the fuel cycle. Depending on the future evolution and use of nuclear energy, particularly if nuclear energy is replaced in the longer term with other energy sources, most of these transuranics could also require geologic disposal when the fast reactors are decommissioned.
The newer recycling processes would, if adopted, impact security in a number of ways. To help protect against the threat of concealed diversion of fissionable material, keeping other materials mixed with plutonium increases the effectiveness of safeguards containment and surveillance measures but may complicate material accounting. Avoiding the separation of pure plutonium is beneficial because it may increase the mass, bulk, and radioactivity of the material and can shift the handling of the material into less accessibe locations, such as hot cells. At the same time, the radioactivity of the plutonium plus actinides is not significantly higher than that of just plutonium itself. Moreover, separation of plutonium plus actinides does not preclude its use in weapons. Although weapons made from the unseparated material may be less powerful than those made from material meant to be put into weapons, the effects would still be devastating.
The programs that would eventually become AFCI received funding of $68.7 million in FY 2001, $77.2 million in FY 2002, and $57.3 million in FY 2003. In FY 2004, AFCI officially came into existence and was funded at $65.8 million in FY 2004, $66.4 million in FY 2005, and $78.4 million in FY 2006 (see Table 1-1). Beginning in FY 2007, DOE requested that the AFCI program be subsumed in a larger program, GNEP, described below, and requested $243 million for the AFCI account.
OVERALL PROGRAM DESCRIPTION
The goals of DOE’s GNEP program appear to consist of what DOE terms “objectives” and “criteria.” In its GNEP Strategic Plan (DOE, 2007, pp. 1-10 and 2-10), DOE says that in order to
enable the expansion of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and make a major contribution to global development into the 21st century, the United States seeks to pursue and accelerate cooperation to:
Expand nuclear power to help meet growing energy demand in an environmentally sustainable manner.
Develop, demonstrate, and deploy advanced technologies for recycling spent nuclear fuel that do not separate plutonium, with the goal over time of ceasing separation of plutonium and eventually eliminating excess stocks of civilian plutonium and drawing down existing stocks of civilian spent fuel. Such advanced fuel cycle technologies would substantially reduce nuclear waste, simplify its disposition, and help to ensure the need for only one geologic repository in the United States through the end of this century.
Develop, demonstrate, and deploy advanced reactors that consume transuranic elements from recycled spent fuel.
Establish supply arrangements among nations to provide reliable fuel services worldwide for generating nuclear energy, by providing nuclear fuel and taking back spent fuel for recycling, without spreading enrichment and reprocessing technologies.
Develop, demonstrate, and deploy advanced, proliferation resistant nuclear power reactors appropriate for the power grids of developing countries and regions.
In cooperation with the IAEA, develop enhanced nuclear safeguards to effectively and efficiently monitor nuclear materials and facilities, to ensure commercial nuclear energy systems are used only for peaceful purposes.
The charge to the committee concerns the technical, scientific, economic, and management aspects of the GNEP program. Therefore, it has focused primarily on the second and third objectives. Though the fifth objective is also within the committee’s purview, DOE appears to be in only the early stages of formulating a plan for this work, so the committee has not attempted to evaluate it.
Questions of international collaboration lie outside the charge of this study. It is worth noting that the committee learned of efforts to establish discussions with other countries, notably to initiate collaboration with the Russian Global Nuclear Infrastructure (GNI) (WNN, 2007). It is unclear how well the GNI goals fit with those of GNEP. In addition, the committee learned from some of its outside expert consultants about the challenges surrounding the international aspects of bringing GNEP to reality, and there are some aspects of international interactions that do have a direct bearing on the response to the charge. These will be addressed in a later section.
DOE’s strategic plan for GNEP contains the following criteria:
Proliferation/safeguards risk. “The risk of non-peaceful use of the civilian nuclear fuel cycle comes from two principal sources: (1) a nation wanting to advance toward the capability to build nuclear weapons in a shorter period of time and (2) a terrorist group wanting to divert nuclear materials to quickly fabricate and explode an improvised nuclear device or a dirty bomb. GNEP aims to address both of these issues by providing incentives to forego enrichment