Individual Views

NEIL E. TODREAS

APRIL 30, 1991

The Committee's endorsement of policy Alternative #2 is an affirmation that focused sequential exploitation of light water reactor (LWR) development in the short term and liquid metal reactor (LMR) development for the long term should be pursued. Acceleration of liquid metal development by an additional ten years as envisioned in Alternative #3 was not deemed necessary at this time. Concurrent with rejection of this acceleration it was deemed possible to conduct liquid metal fuel irradiation technology development without the FFTF, albeit at some risk.

However, an assessment of this risk including options to minimize it were not explicitly detailed. The technical risk principally involves uncertainties in extrapolating short-length (13″) EBR-II fuel test specimen results to design conditions (53″). Current long specimens (36″) in FFTF will not be taken to design burnups and examined for some years to ensure that this risk of extrapolation is tolerable. Further, the continued availability of EBR-II, now twenty-eight years old, is not assured. The example of the French reactor RAPSODIE which was ultimately shutdown in 1983, following discovery the previous year of an unrepairable leak, testifies to the uncertainties in assuring the availability of aging test reactors.

It therefore seems prudent to the execution of the recommended LMR development strategy that the contemplated retirement of FFTF be done in stages including an initial approximately five-year mothball status period. This would allow the following evaluations to be completed to ensure that the retirement of FFTF was a cost effective decision.

  1. Complete the destructive examinations of an adequate number of fuel specimens of long length (36″) taken to design burnups in both FFTF steady state and TREAT transient tests. This will allow assessment of the risk inherent in extrapolating the behavior of short-length (13″) fuel specimens upon which the irradiation tests program is almost exclusively to be based. This risk assessment will indicate the number of demonstration plants of increasing core size that will be needed to prudently reach prototype design conditions. Life cycle development costs are strongly affected by this judgment since the tradeoff is between a strategy of building multiple demonstration plants and retiring the FFTF versus a path of building perhaps a single intermediate-size demonstration plant and retention of the FFTF.



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NUCLEAR POWER: TECHNICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE Individual Views NEIL E. TODREAS APRIL 30, 1991 The Committee's endorsement of policy Alternative #2 is an affirmation that focused sequential exploitation of light water reactor (LWR) development in the short term and liquid metal reactor (LMR) development for the long term should be pursued. Acceleration of liquid metal development by an additional ten years as envisioned in Alternative #3 was not deemed necessary at this time. Concurrent with rejection of this acceleration it was deemed possible to conduct liquid metal fuel irradiation technology development without the FFTF, albeit at some risk. However, an assessment of this risk including options to minimize it were not explicitly detailed. The technical risk principally involves uncertainties in extrapolating short-length (13″) EBR-II fuel test specimen results to design conditions (53″). Current long specimens (36″) in FFTF will not be taken to design burnups and examined for some years to ensure that this risk of extrapolation is tolerable. Further, the continued availability of EBR-II, now twenty-eight years old, is not assured. The example of the French reactor RAPSODIE which was ultimately shutdown in 1983, following discovery the previous year of an unrepairable leak, testifies to the uncertainties in assuring the availability of aging test reactors. It therefore seems prudent to the execution of the recommended LMR development strategy that the contemplated retirement of FFTF be done in stages including an initial approximately five-year mothball status period. This would allow the following evaluations to be completed to ensure that the retirement of FFTF was a cost effective decision. Complete the destructive examinations of an adequate number of fuel specimens of long length (36″) taken to design burnups in both FFTF steady state and TREAT transient tests. This will allow assessment of the risk inherent in extrapolating the behavior of short-length (13″) fuel specimens upon which the irradiation tests program is almost exclusively to be based. This risk assessment will indicate the number of demonstration plants of increasing core size that will be needed to prudently reach prototype design conditions. Life cycle development costs are strongly affected by this judgment since the tradeoff is between a strategy of building multiple demonstration plants and retiring the FFTF versus a path of building perhaps a single intermediate-size demonstration plant and retention of the FFTF.

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NUCLEAR POWER: TECHNICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE Perform a thorough evaluation of the maintenance and modernization costs to ensure as best as possible the continued availability of the EBR-II as an irradiation test bed for the LMR development program. During thing five-year period in which the determination of the U.S. to maintain an LMR program as a strategic national program is demonstrated, it might become possible to develop a complementary international LMR consensus. From such a consensus would almost certainly arise a cooperative fuel and safety program whose centerpiece would be the utilization of FFTF as the international test reactor. The resulting FFTF support costs for the U.S. could be significantly lower than those existing today. These reduced maintenance costs could then be considered in conjunction with the costs identified in (1) and (2) above to reach an informed judgment on the question of maintenance or retirement of the FFTF. Adolf Birkhofer and Sol Burstein agree with this separate opinion. HOWARD K. SHAPAR MARCH 29, 1991 There are three issues on which I wish to state my separate views. First, I disagree with the Committee's conclusion that there is need for the establishment of a new entity whose functions would parallel those of the National Transportation Safety Board. The stated bases for the Committee's conclusion are that the establishment of such an entity would enhance safety and public acceptance because, among other things, it would facilitate a determination of the NRC staff's role in contributing to accidents. To think that the establishment of such an accident-review body would have a significant impact on safety or public acceptance of nuclear power is naive in the extreme. The last thing this country needs is another bureaucracy to review nuclear safety issues. To the extent that staff involvement may be a contributing factor to the occurrence of a nuclear incident, I fail to see why NRC's Inspector General cannot be reasonably expected to bring that involvement to light. If it were to be shown (which I strongly doubt) that NRC's Inspector General could not perform this function, then any small review entity created should be based on the following: make the entity part of NRC and accord the Commission sufficient supervisory authority to assure that the entity's efforts complement rather than conflict with NRC's regulatory responsibilities; confine the entity's functions to investigative fact-finding, causal determination and reporting thereon; establish criteria for triggering safety investigations in order to assure a focus on matters of real safety significance; and

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NUCLEAR POWER: TECHNICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE assure that the technical resources of NRC will not be duplicated or diluted. The entity should have a small professional staff to provide investigative leadership, with the detailing of experts from NRC or elsewhere to fill particular investigative needs. Second, the Committee's report should, in my view, contain a strong recommendation for the enactment of legislation, along the lines of the legislation put forward recently by the Administration in connection with its National Energy Strategy, which would minimize the possibility of a post-construction hearing in cases where a combined construction permit and operating license had been issued. One of the major obstacles to continued nuclear power development in the United States has been the failure of NRC's licensing process to provide utilities and investors with requisite levels of certainty that a completed plant will be allowed to begin commercial operation on schedule. While NRC has made substantial progress towards the goal of streamlining its regulatory process by issuing rules in April 1989 (10 CFR Part 52) to provide for early site permits, standardized design certifications, and combined construction permits and operating licenses, there remains the substantial possibility, if not likelihood, of another hearing (after the plant has been completed) which could lead to extensive delays before the plant could go into operation. What is needed is a nuclear power plant licensing process that will permit operation in five or six years as is routinely the case in France and Japan. Clearly, delays in nuclear plant construction and operation have a fundamental impact on electric generation costs. Recent experience shows that even when licensing hearings are focused on narrow, technical issues, it can take many months or years to resolve those issues. Given the cost of carrying a multi-billion dollar investment while these issues are being litigated, the uncertainties associated with a post-construction hearing are sufficiently daunting to deter utilities from ordering a nuclear plant. In short, legislation such as I would recommend would go a long way to increasing utility and investor confidence in future nuclear power plant orders. Third, I do not believe that the Committee's report deals adequately with a disturbing trend -- the fact that an increasing (but, thus far, small) number of States are involving themselves in matters of nuclear safety. If this trend continues, another institutional barrier to the further development of nuclear power in the United States will have been erected. Two of the principal reasons why the Congress wisely decided that nuclear safety should be the exclusive responsibility of the Federal Government was the belief (1) that dual regulation by the States and the Federal Government would be counter-productive to safety and (2) that Federal preemption would better serve the development of nuclear energy in the United States. Those reasons continue to be valid today. The Committee' s report should have concluded that entry by the States into the field of nuclear power plant safety is (in addition to being unlawful) ill-advised, counter-productive to safety, and contrary to the National interest.

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