the committee believes that a research program similar to the original AFCI is worth pursuing,4 for three reasons: to extend uranium resources (when and if this need arises), to greatly reduce the long-lived, high-level actinides in nuclear waste, and to improve the waste forms for disposal of high-level nuclear waste. It may be that the international aspects of GNEP will provide technical benefits to all the participants, and there may even be some benefit in regard to inhibiting proliferation and improving physical protection as well. Such a program should be paced by national needs, taking into account economics, technological readiness, national security, energy security, and other considerations. The committee envisions such a program in the following way:
Recommendation 4-1. DOE should develop and publish detailed technical and economic analyses to explain and describe UREX+1a and fast reactor recycle as well as a range of alternatives. An independent peer review group, as recommended in Chapter 6, should review these analyses. DOE should pursue the development of other separation processes until a fully fact-based comparison can be made and a decision taken on which process or processes could be carried to engineering scale.
Recommendation 4-2. DOE should devote more effort to the qualification of recycled fuel, as it poses a major technical challenge. A fast neutron test facility is needed for fast-spectrum fuel qualification; the committee recommends carrying this out using existing facilities in collaboration with international partners. Parallel development of nonfertile LWR fuel and deep-burn TRISO fuel should be pursued to reduce program risk.
Recommendation 4-3. DOE should compare the technical and financial risks with the potential benefits. Such an analysis should undergo an independent, intensive peer review, as recommended in Chapter 6. Moreover, DOE should identify program benchmarks and report regularly on its attempts to meet them.
Recommendation 4-4. DOE should bring together other appropriate divisions of DOE and other appropriate federal agencies, representatives from industry, and representatives from other nations well before any decisions are made on the technology, in order to create and exploit shared perceptions of the roles of the participants, of the states of the various technologies, and of the commitments and schedules of each of those participants. A research, development, and deployment program can succeed only if all of those participants see themselves as its co-owners and creators.
Recommendation 4-5. DOE should defer the Secretarial decision, now scheduled for 2008, which the committee believes is not credible. Moreover, if it makes this decision in the future, DOE should target construction of new technologies at most at an engineering scale. DOE should commission an independent peer review of the state of knowledge as a prerequisite to any Secretarial decision on future research programs.
In summary, the committee concludes that without first demonstrating relevant technologies at an engineering scale, there are unacceptably high financial and technical risks to commercial-scale construction of a separations facility and a fast burner reactor.
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Crozat, M.P. 2007. Evaluating the Economics of GNEP Deployment. January 8. Distributed to the committee by DOE.
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The dissenting view of two members of the committee is presented in Appendix A.