Management and Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium

Reactor-Related Options

Panel on Reactor-Related Options for the Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium

Committee on International Security and Arms Control

National Academy of Sciences

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C.
1995



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Management and Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium: Reactor-Related Options Management and Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium Reactor-Related Options Panel on Reactor-Related Options for the Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium Committee on International Security and Arms Control National Academy of Sciences NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C. 1995

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Management and Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium: Reactor-Related Options NOTICE: This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by the President of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievement of engineers. Dr. Harold Liebowitz is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine. The Committee on International Security and Arms Control is a standing committee of the National Academy of Sciences. Its membership includes members of all three bodies. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. Harold Liebowitz are chairman and vice-chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council. This project was made possible with funding support from the Department of Energy, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and National Research Council funds. The MacArthur Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York provide core support for the work of the Committee on International Security and Arms Control, including projects such as this. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 95-78572 International Standard Book Number 0-309-05145-2 Copies of this report and its companion, Management and Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium, are available for sale from the National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Avenue N.W., Box 285, Washington, DC 20055. 800-624-6242 or 202-334-3313 (in the Washington Metropolitan Area). The Executive Summary of Management and Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium is available in limited quantities from the Committee on International Security and Arms Control, 2101 Constitution Avenue N.W., Washington, DC 20418. Copyright © 1995 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America

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Management and Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium: Reactor-Related Options PANEL ON REACTOR-RELATED OPTIONS FOR THE DISPOSITION OF EXCESS WEAPONS PLUTONIUM JOHN P. HOLDREN (Chair), Class of 1935 Professor of Energy, University of California-Berkeley JOHN F. AHEARNE, Executive Director, Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society ROBERT J. BUDNITZ, President, Future Resources Associates RICHARD L. GARWIN, IBM Fellow Emeritus, Thomas J. Watson Research Center, IBM Corporation MICHAEL M. MAY, Director Emeritus, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory THOMAS H. PIGFORD, Professor of Nuclear Engineering, University of California-Berkeley JOHN J. TAYLOR, Vice President, Nuclear Power Division, Electric Power Research Institute Staff MATTHEW BUNN, Plutonium Study Director LOIS E. PETERSON, Research Associate LA'FAYE LEWIS-OLIVER, Administrative Assistant MONICA OLIVA, Research Assistant

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Management and Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium: Reactor-Related Options COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AND ARMS CONTROL JOHN P. HOLDREN (Chair), Class of 1935 Professor of Energy, University of California-Berkeley WOLFGANG K.H. PANOFSKY (Plutonium Study Chair), Professor and Director Emeritus, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford University JOHN D. BALDESCHWIELER, Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology WILLIAM F. BURNS, Major General (retired), U.S. Army GEORGE LEE BUTLER, Vice President, Peter Kiewit Sons, Inc. PAUL M. DOTY, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; and Director Emeritus, Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University STEVE FETTER, School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland ALEXANDER H. FLAX, President Emeritus, Institute for Defense Analyses RICHARD L. GARWIN, IBM Fellow Emeritus, Thomas J. Watson Research Center, IBM Corporation ROSE GOTTEMOELLER, Deputy Director, International Institute for Strategic Studies SPURGEON M. KEENY, JR., President, Arms Control Association JOSHUA LEDERBERG, University Professor, The Rockefeller University MICHAEL M. MAY, Director Emeritus, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory MATTHEW MESELSON, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Harvard University C. KUMAR N. PATEL, Vice Chancellor, Research, University of California, Los Angeles JONATHAN D. POLLACK, Senior Advisor for International Policy, The RAND Corporation NEIL J. SMELSER, Director, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences JOHN D. STEINBRUNER, Director, Foreign Policy Studies Program, The Brookings Institution ROBERT H. WERTHEIM, Rear Admiral (retired), U.S. Navy F. SHERWOOD ROWLAND, ex officio, Foreign Secretary, National Academy of Sciences Staff JO L. HUSBANDS, Director MATTHEW BUNN, Plutonium Study Director LOIS E. PETERSON, Research Associate LA'FAYE LEWIS-OLIVER, Administrative Assistant MONICA OLIVA, Research Assistant

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Management and Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium: Reactor-Related Options Preface With the end of the Cold War, the United States and the republics of the former Soviet Union have undertaken arms control on an unprecedented scale. What to do with the fissile materials from the tens of thousands of nuclear weapons to be dismantled has become a pressing problem for international security. Limits on access to these materials are the primary technical barrier to acquisition of nuclear weapons in the world today. In 1992 the U.S. government asked the Committee on International Security and Arms Control (CISAC) of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to study alternative approaches for dismantling nuclear weapons, and for storing and eventually using or disposing of the plutonium they contain. To support CISAC's work, the NAS formed the Panel on Reactor-Related Options for the Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium in November 1992. The panel consists of three members of CISAC and four additional members selected for their relevant expertise on issues related to reactors and reactor wastes (see list of panel members on p. iii). The official U.S. government sponsor of the project is the Office of Nuclear Energy of the U.S. Department of Energy. Additional support was provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and National Research Council funds. The Carnegie Corporation of New York and the MacArthur Foundation provide core support for CISAC, including its policy reports. The panel's report served as input to the deliberations of CISAC in its broader charge, which included consideration of disposition options not related to nuclear reactors, as well as issues of preliminary storage and management of

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Management and Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium: Reactor-Related Options the weapons plutonium.1 The responsibility for the content of the panel's report, which has been subjected separately to the Academy's review process, rests solely with the members of the panel; similarly, the non-CISAC members of the panel bear no responsibility for the conclusions that CISAC drew, in its 1994 report, from this and other inputs. Like the main committee study, the panel report proved to be an immense undertaking, requiring hundreds of hours of research, drafting, and discussion by the panel members. The panel's basic analysis and conclusions were completed in late 1993, in time to be an essential ingredient of the full CISAC report. It required an additional 18 months, however, to complete the drafting, editing, and review of the panel's report to its satisfaction. The consensus achieved in the fall of 1993 has not changed over that time, but the analysis is now laid out in full detail and documented. It provides substantial additional information and analysis on various reactor-related options beyond that contained in the committee report. Every member of the panel contributed to the work of the group, with each person responsible for drafting the description and assessment of particular options. Panel chair John P. Holdren, who is also the chair of CISAC, wrote major sections of the report and undertook the formidable task of comparing the various options. The depth and richness of the report reflects his prodigious efforts. The CISAC staff provided invaluable assistance throughout the course of the panel's work. Study Director Matthew Bunn somehow managed to oversee the work of both the main committee and the panel. He was an essential liaison between the two groups and provided significant intellectual input to the work of both. He drafted major portions of the CISAC report and edited the panel report to harmonize the work of the individual panel members. The project could not have been completed without him. CISAC's research associate, Lois Peterson, and research assistant, Monica Oliva, provided crucial substantive and administrative support, including the preparation of the manuscript for publication as part of the new National Academy Press program in desktop publishing. Ms. Peterson also served as an additional staff liaison for the panel once Mr. Bunn was burdened with a new assignment. The entire CISAC staff received a group staff award in recognition of its exceptional efforts on this project. The issue of management and disposition of plutonium from arms reductions has a long history and a voluminous literature, stretching back almost to the beginning of the nuclear age. In recent years these issues have been studied by a wide variety of groups and individuals in the United States, including those associated with the U.S. Department of Energy and other agencies of the U.S. 1   The CISAC report (National Academy of Sciences, Committee on International Security and Arms Control. Management and Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium. Washington, D.C., National Academy Press, 1994) was released prior to the report of this panel.

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Management and Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium: Reactor-Related Options government, the Office of Technology Assessment, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Federation of American Scientists, the Center for Energy and Environment Studies at Princeton University, the Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, several Department of Energy laboratories, and a variety of private companies. Groups and individuals in Russia, Europe, Japan, and elsewhere have also examined the problem. In carrying out their studies, CISAC and the panel benefited greatly from this substantial body of prior work, and extensive communications with many of those involved in it, for which the committee and the panel are profoundly grateful. In addition, the panel was fortunate to receive help from many parts of the Department of Energy. Staff members from the Department of Energy headquarters and facilities, including Hanford, Savannah River, Los Alamos, and Lawrence Livermore generously gave time to help clarify and resolve technical issues, as well as providing access to relevant experts and materials. The Idaho National Engineering Laboratory merits particular recognition for its significant effort to analyze several aspects of the reactor disposition options, such as non-fertile reactor fuels, carried out without charge to the Academy. Without this assistance, it would have been impossible for the panel to examine the issues in the depth required with the time and personnel it had at its disposal. As the main CISAC report concludes, there are no easy answers to the problems posed by the fissile materials that are part of the legacy of the Cold War arms competition between the United States and the former Soviet Union. The issues addressed and the options outlined and evaluated will be of critical importance for the future prospects for nonproliferation and arms reduction. Action is urgently needed; in CISAC's words, "The existence of this surplus material constitutes a clear and present danger to national and international security. None of the options yet identified for managing this material can eliminate this danger; all they can do is to reduce the risks."

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Management and Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium: Reactor-Related Options Table of Contents     Executive Summary   1 Chapter 1:   Introduction   17     Road Map of the Report   20     Uncertainties   20     Goals, Timing, and Related Factors   21     U.S. and Russian Plutonium Disposition: Differences and Linkages   24     References   25 Chapter 2:   Background   26     Physics and Technology of Nuclear Fission   27     Classes of Disposition Options   46     Present and Future Fissile Material Stockpiles   49     World Nuclear-Energy Systems Relevant to Plutonium Disposition   53     References   57 Chapter 3:   Criteria for Comparing Disposition Options   59     Criteria Related to Security and Timing   61     Issues and Criteria in Economic Evaluation of Alternatives   74     Issues and Criteria Relating to Environment, Safety, and Health   90     Other Considerations   97     Appendix A: Integrated Inventory   99

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Management and Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium: Reactor-Related Options     Appendix B: Levelized Annual Costs and Net Discounted Present Value   102     Appendix C: Avoided Cost and Associated Pitfalls   105     Appendix D: Predicted Damages From the Doses Permitted by Standards   109     References   112 Chapter 4:   Reactor Options   116     U.S. Plutonium in Current-Generation U.S. Light-Water Reactors   117     Russian Plutonium in Current-Generation Russian Thermal Reactors   136     Current-Generation CANDU Reactors   144     Potential Involvement of West European and Japanese Facilities   155     Current-Generation Liquid-Metal Reactors   161     Current Naval and Research Reactors   165     Advanced Light-Water Reactors   166     Advanced Liquid-Metal Reactors   171     Modular High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors   181     Molten-Salt Reactor   189     Particle-Bed Reactors   192     A Dedicated Plutonium-Burner Reactor   195     Accelerator-Based Conversion of Plutonium   196     References   206 Chapter 5:   Disposal of Plutonium Without Irradiation   214     Introduction   214     Overview of the Technology   216     The Choice of Waste Form   218     Technical Issues Facing Vitrification   222     Assessment by Key Criteria   234     References   247 Chapter 6:   Comparing the Options   250     Security Comparisons   251     General Considerations   254     Timing   256     Other Indices, Barriers, and Threat-Barrier Interactions   269     Economic Comparisons   280     Weapons Plutonium Versus Uranium as Power Reactor Fuel   280     Completing Existing LWRs   306     Building New Reactors for Plutonium Disposition   312     Economics of Vitrification   327     Economics of Russian Disposition Options   327

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Management and Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium: Reactor-Related Options     Environment, Safety, and Health   330     Relevant Characteristics of Plutonium   330     Hazards in Interim Storage of Plutonium   335     Hazards in Plutonium Transport   338     Hazards in Plutonium Processing   343     Reactor Safety Issues   349     Radioactive Waste Issues   356     The Comparisons in Summary   373     Security   374     Economics   376     Environment, Safety, and Health   379     Appendix: Approval and Licensing Issues in Weapons Plutonium Disposition   382     References   390 Chapter 7:   Conclusions and Recommendations   397     Disposition Options and End-Points   398     Narrowing the Range of Options   399     Current-Reactor Options for Meeting the Spent Fuel Standard   401     Advanced Reactors and Specialty Fuels   407     Immobilization Options   410     Comparison of the Current-Reactor/Spent-Fuel and Vitrification Options   413     Recommendations   416

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Management and Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium: Reactor-Related Options Management and Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium Reactor-Related Oprions

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