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10 U.S. Nuclear Power Industry Trends in Spent Fuel Management John H. Kessler Electric Power Research Institute INTRODUCTION At present, nuclear power supplies approximately 20 percent of the electric- ity needs in the United States. There are 103 nuclear power plants in 31 states. Of these, 34 are boiling water reactors (BWRs) and 69 are pressurized water reactors (PWRs). In the past few years the U.S. nuclear power industry has undergone a few changes. There has been significant consolidation of the industry. Utilities with only one plant or a handful have sold their plants to other utilities, such that today the 103 plants are in the hands of fewer individual utilities than a decade ago. Furthermore, improvements in operations and safety have increased the average capacity factor from approximately 50 percent to over 90 percent in the past decade.1 Several other advances in the U.S. nuclear power industry will result in more nuclear-generated electricity for a longer period. Power upgrades at exist- ing plants have added more than 2,000 MWe over approximately the past four years. However, a major step that the current U.S. nuclear power plant owners have taken is to seek and, increasingly, obtain license extensions to operate plants for many years longer than their initial license periods—typically an additional 20 years. At present, 30 plants have received such extensions, with another 48 pending. While the 1990s saw the shutdown of a few nuclear power plants, no additional plants have been shut down since 1998. In addition, one reactor that had previously been shut down is now back in operation. 1 See Nuclear Energy Institute’s web site: www.nei.org. 75

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76 SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL STORAGE FACILITIES The idea of building new nuclear power plants in the United States has be- come more of a reality over the past few years. There is a joint U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)/industry initiative to license and construct new plants. Several utilities are considering building a new plant—either as a consortium or on their own. In all cases the utilities are considering building an additional plant at an existing nuclear site. Several utilities have applied for early site permits—es- sentially requesting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to approve the suitability of the site chosen for locating a new plant. Furthermore, recent energy legislation provides a few incentives to U.S. utilities to build new nuclear power plants. At present, however, no U.S. utility has yet announced plans to actually proceed with a license application to build a new plant. All of the above means that there will be continued production of used com- mercial nuclear fuel at present rates (or higher) for at least several more decades. Hence, there is a growing need to manage the increasing inventory of used nuclear fuel. Projections of that inventory in the United States are given in Figure 1. This figure shows how much of the commercial used nuclear fuel is currently in spent fuel pools or dry storage—both at reactor sites. The figure also shows that spent fuel pools are nearing their capacity, such that the rate of dry storage capacity must rival or exceed the rate of used fuel production in the near future. CUMULATIVE US COMMERCIAL SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL INVENTORY (1990 to 2020) SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL (Metric Tons Uranium) 100000 Dry Storage Total Inventory 90000 Projected spent fuel and dry storage inventories after 2005 were projected by Energy Resources International, Inc. 80000 using its SPENT FUEL model. 70000 60000 50000 40000 30000 Projected Actual 20000 10000 0 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 2018 2020 FIGURE 1 Cumulative U.S. commercial used nuclear fuel production. Source: Energy Resources International, Inc. 11-1.eps

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77 U.S. NUCLEAR POWER INDUSTRY U.S. LAWS AND REGULATIONS GOVERNING THE NUCLEAR POWER INDUSTRY’S USED FUEL/ HIGH-LEVEL WASTE MANAGEMENT There are three main U.S. laws that govern the way used nuclear fuel is to be managed and paid for. The 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) and the subsequent 1987 Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act (NWPAA) require DOE to be responsible for managing both commercial and defense high-level waste (HLW), including commercial used nuclear fuel. To pay for this responsibility, the U.S. nuclear power utilities must pay a tax of $0.001 per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated. The money is to go into a Nuclear Waste Fund (NWF) that is managed by the U.S. Congress. At present, the U.S. nuclear utilities pay on the order of $700 million per year into the NWF. As of December 2004, the NWF had received a total of approximately $26 billion. The NWPA and NWPAA require that DOE and the U.S. nuclear power utilities enter into contracts for the receipt of used nuclear fuel from the utilities. Per the above laws, and entered into the contracts, was an obligation by DOE to begin accepting used nuclear fuel from the utilities by January 31, 1998. DOE also sets the waste acceptance criteria in the contracts, which relates to the properties of the used fuel itself. The 1992 Energy Policy Act, the third law, governs the regulations specifi- cally for Yucca Mountain. Along with the NWPA, this act requires the U.S. En- vironmental Protection Agency (EPA) to promulgate a regulation based on and consistent with recommendations made by the National Academy of Sciences. The NRC is to implement the EPA regulation and will be responsible for receiv- ing and reviewing any license application from DOE for Yucca Mountain. In 2005, the EPA issued a revised Yucca Mountain regulation for public comment. In addition to the Yucca Mountain–specific EPA and NRC regulations, there are a few other NRC regulations of note: 10 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 72 sets out requirements for dry used fuel storage systems; 10 CFR Part 71 provides requirements for used fuel transportation systems. The third NRC regulation, 10 CFR Part 51, has what is called a waste con- fidence provision. For U.S. nuclear reactors to keep operating, the NRC requires reasonable assurance •  that geological disposal is technically feasible, •  that a repository will be available in the first quarter of the 21st century, •  that used fuel will be managed safely until sufficient repository capacity is available to dispose of all of it, •  of safe on-site storage for the life of the nuclear power plant plus the period of the plant’s license extension plus an additional 30 years, and •  that sufficient on-site storage capacity will be made available if needed.

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78 SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL STORAGE FACILITIES This implies that it is not enough to have a national program with just long- term storage of used nuclear fuel; an active, credible program for the development and implementation of a geological disposal facility also is needed. DOE ACTIVITY REGARDING COMMERCIAL USED FUEL MANAGEMENT—A bRIEF HISTORY DOE has been exploring options for managing used nuclear fuel and HLW for many decades. In the 1980s, DOE actively pursued locating a monitored retrievable storage (MRS) site. The MRS was, in concept, to be a centralized surface facility for the storage of used nuclear fuel and HLW for many decades, perhaps longer. The MRS requires, however, a willing host community and coop- erative state and local governments. Unfortunately, DOE found no volunteers. DOE has been pursuing permanent geological disposal for many decades. The intent of the NWPA (1982) was for DOE to identify and explore two different sites. Initially, nine different sites were explored, after which the list was nar- rowed down to three. The NWPAA (1987) narrowed the focus to one site—Yucca Mountain—for further development, mostly due to rising costs. DOE has been actively exploring the Yucca Mountain site ever since. The current disposal limit at Yucca Mountain is 70,000 metric tons of uranium (MTU), or its equivalent for HLW. Of that 70,000 MTU total, 63,000 MTU is reserved for commercial used nuclear fuel. Figure 1 suggests that the U.S. inventory of used nuclear fuel will reach 63,000 MTU in approximately 2010. It should be noted, however, that this limit is a legal rather than a technical limit. DOE officials have suggested that approximately twice the current 70,000 MTU limit could likely be disposed of at Yucca Mountain. There have been continual delays in the development of Yucca Mountain as a repository for used nuclear fuel and HLW. While much has been accomplished at Yucca Mountain over approximately two decades, the scope of the project has changed, and DOE funding requests to the U.S. Congress have almost never been fully granted. Before 1987 and enactment of the NWPAA, DOE expected that Yucca Mountain would be open and accepting waste by 1998. However, in 1987, DOE moved the opening date back to 2003. Two years later in 1989, DOE moved the date to 2010. As of late 2004, DOE stated that the 2010 date was unlikely. At this time DOE has not announced its new estimated date for Yucca Mountain availability. U.S. NUCLEAR PLANTS’ REACTION TO DOE DELAYS AND NRC’S WASTE CONFIDENCE REQUIREMENT When most U.S. reactors were designed in the 1960s and 1970s, used nuclear fuel was expected to be shipped off-site after approximately five years of cool- ing in spent fuel pools. The intent at the time was to reprocess the majority of

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79 U.S. NUCLEAR POWER INDUSTRY the used fuel. However, reprocessing was halted in the earliest stages of imple- mentation in the United States and has not yet been revived. Therefore, the U.S. nuclear power utilities were forced to manage their growing inventories of used nuclear fuel. Most utilities started by reracking their pools to accommodate a higher density of used fuel assemblies. Almost all plants are now fully reracked. Starting in the early 1980s, some plants needed to move some of their used fuel out of the pools. In 1986 the first on-site dry storage of used nuclear fuel was licensed and implemented. As of today the U.S. utilities are still managing essentially 100 percent of their used fuel at their own reactor sites. Nearly one-half of all reactor sites have or will soon have on-site dry storage systems. Almost all nuclear power plants will require on-site dry storage by 2010 if no off-site solution becomes available. The on-site dry storage systems have an initial license period of 20 years. A few dry storage system owners have applied to the NRC for license extensions. The first few extensions have now been granted, in one case for an additional 40 years of storage. Separately, a consortium of U.S. utilities has been actively seeking its own private MRS (that is, developed without the assistance of DOE). Three industry initiatives for such an MRS have been undertaken. The private MRS that is far- thest along is located at the Goshute Reservation in Utah. This site is known by the abbreviation PFS (Private Fuel Storage) for the name of the utility consor- tium. After a seven-year licensing process, PFS has received regulatory approval to proceed with construction. The PFS site capacity is to be 40,000 MTU of used nuclear fuel for a licensing period of 40 years. Construction has not yet begun. U.S. NUCLEAR POWER INDUSTRY’S GUIDING PRINCIPLES AND THOUGHTS GOING FORWARD The U.S. nuclear power industry is driven by a few guiding principles regard- ing used nuclear fuel management: •  Ensure that used nuclear fuel storage and/or disposal does not result in plant shutdowns, jeopardize license renewal, affect economic competition, or af- fect new plant construction. •  Ensure that DOE meets its contractual obligation to remove used nuclear fuel from power plant sites at the earliest opportunity. •  Set the fee at $0.001 per kilowatt-hour and ensure that all funds are used for the Yucca Mountain program. •  Focus maximum efforts to keep the Yucca Mountain program on sched- ule and within budget. •  Develop political and policymaker support for nuclear energy to provide a strong impetus for solving the used fuel issue.

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80 SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL STORAGE FACILITIES The U.S. nuclear power industry recognizes that a spent fuel and HLW repository is an essential part of the industry under all waste policy scenarios. The industry thinks that Yucca Mountain is technologically sound as a geological repository and can meet appropriate regulations. Finally, the industry is counting on the current administration to file a Yucca Mountain license application at the earliest possible time. There has generally been consistent support by the nuclear power industry for Congress to adequately fund DOE to develop and license Yucca Mountain. However, as shown in Figure 2, DOE has never received from Congress all that it has requested. This is partly responsible for the delays in the current Yucca Mountain schedule. $900 Legend 880 Budget Request Accelerated Transmutation of Waste $800 (1999 only) Program Mgmt. and Integration* Transportation* $700 Yucca Mountain 630 *Beginning with the FY05 request, Waste Acceptance is part of the PM&I. In prior years, it was part of Transportation. 591 591 $600 577 577 532 522 109 $500 90 457 445 438 64 409 81 400 400 57 $400 380 380 382 375 8 358 74 351 346 4 73 74 315 3 70 72 68 $300 9 4 51 2 2 6 14 $200 375 250 300 268 282 281 323 297 368 404 $100 $0 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 Annual ($10M) ($315M) ($18M) ($34M) ($22M) ($58M) ($38M) ($70M) ($134M) ($14M) ($303M) Shortfall: Cumulative Shortfall FY 1995–FY 2005: $1016B FIGURE 2 DOE Yucca Mountain funding requests versus allocated amounts by Congress. 11-2.eps redrawn R01240

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8 U.S. NUCLEAR POWER INDUSTRY After January 31, 1998, the date in the DOE/utility contracts when DOE was to begin accepting used nuclear fuel from the utilities, the utilities sued DOE for breach of contract. The utilities are seeking compensation for their expenses related to having to manage the used nuclear fuel on their own, along with other related expenses. At present, only one of these lawsuits has been partially settled and the rest are still pending. However, this does not mean that industry is not supportive of DOE’s ef- forts to open Yucca Mountain. Quite the contrary, as indicated by some of the principles above and the industry’s actions. For example, the industry was heav- ily involved in the site recommendation process. A formal site recommendation for Yucca Mountain was required by law. The site recommendation requires that DOE recommend Yucca Mountain to the President and that the President approve the recommendation and send it to Congress for possible action. The host state, Nevada, has the opportunity to veto the recommendation. If vetoed, both houses of Congress would have to override the veto with a simple majority vote. The site recommendation process took place during the first half of 2002. In February 2002 the Secretary of Energy recommended the site to the President, who then immediately recommended it to Congress. As expected, Nevada vetoed the site recommendation, which meant that Congress had to vote to override the veto. In- dustry was actively involved in providing technical information to the public and members of Congress,2 along with lobbying Congress. In July 2002 the Nevada veto was overridden by a vote of 306 to 117 in the House of Representatives and by a vote of 60 to 38 in the Senate. IS THERE A NEED FOR A SECOND REPOSITORY IN THE UNITED STATES? The NWPA requires DOE and Congress to report on the need for a second repository between 2007 and 2010. Issues likely to be factored into that report are the current legal limit on Yucca Mountain capacity versus the higher technical limit and the potential for expanded use of nuclear power in the United States in the future. At present, the U.S. nuclear power industry has not yet developed a formal position on the need for a second repository. The industry notes, however, that it is DOE that is responsible for managing used nuclear fuel. DOE assumes owner- ship of the fuel as soon as it leaves the nuclear power plant. Nuclear utilities will continue to be obligated to pay the $0.001 per kilowatt-hour for DOE’s manage- ment responsibilities. 2 Forexample, the nuclear power industry has regularly funded the Electric Power Research Institute to conduct used fuel storage, transportation, and disposal research for over two decades.

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8 SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL STORAGE FACILITIES SUMMARY Confidence in the handling of waste, discussed above, is essential for the continued use of nuclear power. Hence, the U.S. nuclear power industry has every reason to support solutions to long-term used fuel management and dis- posal. There has generally been strong industry support for Yucca Mountain, both technical and political. Finally, there is, at present, a high interest in future expansion of nuclear power in the United States, leading to further strengthening of support for progress on Yucca Mountain. Industry notes, however, that it is DOE’s responsibility to develop storage and disposal solutions. In the meantime the U.S. nuclear power industry is committed to safely managing its used fuel inventory.