Research Reactor Aluminum Spent Fuel

Treatment Options for Disposal

Milton Levenson, Principal Investigator

Kevin D. Crowley, Study Director

Board on Radioactive Waste Management

Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C.
1998



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--> Research Reactor Aluminum Spent Fuel Treatment Options for Disposal Milton Levenson, Principal Investigator Kevin D. Crowley, Study Director Board on Radioactive Waste Management Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C. 1998

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--> NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. Support for this study was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, under Grant No. DE-FC01-94EW54069. All opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Energy. Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 98-84670 International Standard Book Number 0-309-06049-4 Additional copies of this report are available from: National Academy Press 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Box 285 Washington, DC 20055 800-624-6242 202-334-3313 (in the Washington Metropolitan Area) http://www.nap.edu Copyright 1998 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Cover photo: Radiation glow from an empty zirconium oxide crucible that had been used to melt highly radioactive fuel at Argonne West. The glow is from residual fission products on the surface of the crucible which is at room temperature. The ambient light level was 100 footcandles and the photo was taken through a 60-inch thick leaded glass window. Photo courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory. Printed in the United States of America.

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--> RESEARCH REACTOR ALUMINUM SPENT FUEL Treatment Options for Disposal MILTON LEVENSON, Principal Investigator, Menlo Park, California KEVIN D. CROWLEY, Study Director ANGELA R. TAYLOR, Senior Project Assistant LATRICIA BAILEY, Project Assistant Milton Levenson is a chemical engineer with more than 48 years of experience in nuclear energy and related fields. His technical experience includes work in nuclear safety, fuel cycle, water reactor technology, advanced reactor technology, remote control technology, and sodium reactor technology. His professional experience includes research and operations positions at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, the Electric Power Research Institute, and Bechtel Power Corporation. Mr. Levenson is the past president of the American Nuclear Society; a fellow of the American Nuclear Society and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers; and the recipient of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers' Robert E. Wilson Award. He is the author of more than 150 publications and presentations and holds three U.S. patents. He received his B.Ch.E. from the University of Minnesota and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1976. Kevin D. Crowley is director of the Board on Radioactive Waste Management at the National Research Council and has 15 years of experience in geoscience and nuclear science research and policy work. He holds a Ph.D. degree in geology from Princeton University and previously held positions at the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Oklahoma, and Miami University of Ohio. He is the author of about 30 technical publications, holds one U.S. patent, and has directed or staffed about a dozen NRC studies.

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--> BOARD ON RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT MICHAEL C. KAVANAUGH, Chair, ENVIRON Corporation, Emeryville, California JOHN F. AHEARNE, Vice-Chair, Sigma Xi and Duke University, The Scientific Research Society, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina ROBERT BUDNITZ, Future Resources Associates, Inc., Berkeley, California ANDREW P. CAPUTO, Natural Resources Defense Council, Washington, D.C. MARY R. ENGLISH, University of Tennessee, Knoxville DARLEANE C. HOFFMAN, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley, California JAMES JOHNSON, Howard University, Washington, D.C. ROGER E. KASPERSON, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts JAMES O. LECKIE, Stanford University, Stanford, California JANE C.S. LONG, University of Nevada, Reno CHARLES McCOMBIE, National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste, Wettingen, Switzerland H. ROBERT MEYER, Keystone Scientific, Inc., Fort Collins, Colorado D. WARNER NORTH, DFI/Aeronomics, Mountain View, California MARTIN STEINDLER, Argonne National Laboratory (retired), Argonne, Illinois JOHN J. TAYLOR, Electric Power Research Institute (retired), Palo Alto, California MARY LOU ZOBACK, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California Staff KEVIN D. CROWLEY, Director ROBERT S. ANDREWS, Senior Staff Officer THOMAS KIESS, Senior Staff Officer JOHN R. WILEY, Senior Staff Officer SUSAN B. MOCKLER, Research Associate ERIKA L. WILLIAMS, Research Assistant TONI GREENLEAF, Administrative Assistant ROBIN L. ALLEN, Senior Project Assistant PATRICIA A. JONES, Senior Project Assistant ANGELA R. TAYLOR, Senior Project Assistant LATRICIA BAILEY, Project Assistant

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--> COMMISSION ON GEOSCIENCES, ENVIRONMENT, AND RESOURCES GEORGE M. HORNBERGER, Chair, University of Virginia, Charlottesville PATRICK R. ATKINS, Aluminum Company of America, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania JERRY F. FRANKLIN, University of Washington, Seattle B. JOHN GARRICK, PLG, Inc., Newport Beach, California THOMAS E. GRAEDEL, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut DEBRA KNOPMAN, Progressive Foundation, Washington, D.C. KAI N. LEE, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts JUDITH E. McDOWELL, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts RICHARD A. MESERVE, Covington & Burling, Washington, D.C. HUGH C. MORRIS, Canadian Global Change Program, Delta, British Columbia RAYMOND A. PRICE, Queen's University at Kingston, Ontario H. RONALD PULLIAM, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia THOMAS C. SCHELLING, University of Maryland, College Park VICTORIA J. TSCHINKEL, Landers and Parsons, Tallahassee, Florida E-AN ZEN, University of Maryland, College Park MARY LOU ZOBACK, United States Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California Staff ROBERT M. HAMILTON, Executive Director GREGORY H. SYMMES, Assistant Executive Director JEANETTE SPOON, Administrative and Financial Officer SANDI FITZPATRICK, Administrative Associate MARQUITA SMITH, Administrative Assistant/Technology Analyst

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--> 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 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 achievements of engineers. Dr. William A. Wulf 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 Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine. 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 of 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 Alberts and Dr. William A. Wulf are chairman and interim vice-chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

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--> Foreword Unlike most National Research Council (NRC) studies, which are undertaken by an appointed committee of experts, this project was conducted by a principal investigator (P.I.), Milton Levenson, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, who was selected for his extensive experience with nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear safety, remote control technology, and reactor technology. The findings presented in this report reflect his views, based on the information made available to him by the study's sponsor. The study was conducted under the aegis of the NRC Board on Radioactive Waste Management. In preparing this report, the P.I. reviewed data and documents on the aluminum spent fuel program and related issues that were provided to him by the U.S. Department of Energy (Appendix F), and he obtained briefings from DOE and contractor staff at two public information-gathering meetings held near the Savannah River site (Appendix B). In addition, the P.I. obtained technical advice from 13 expert consultants (Appendix E), eleven of whom attended the second information-gathering meeting. These consultants provided the P.I. with short written reports which have been included in Appendix D of this report. A draft of this report was reviewed by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC's Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review was to provide candid and critical comments to assist the NRC in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The content of the review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report. Patrick R. Atkins, Aluminum Company of America Donald A. Brand, NAE, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (retired) Thomas B. Cochran, Natural Resources Defense Council Harold K. Forsen, NAE, Bechtel Corporation (retired) B. John Garrick, NAE, PLG, Inc. (retired)

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--> Darleane C. Hoffman, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory William E. Kastenberg, NAE, University of California at Berkeley Ronald A. Knief, Ogden Environmental and Energy Services Co. D. Warner North, DFI/Aeronomics Frank L. Parker, NAE, Vanderbilt University Steve Pawel, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Martin J. Steindler, Argonne National Laboratory (retired) William G. Sutcliffe, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Edwin L. Zebroski, NAE, Aptech Engineering Services, Inc. Although the individuals listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, the responsibility for the final content of this report rests with the P.I. and the NRC. BRUCE ALBERTS, CHAIRMAN NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL

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--> Preface Aluminum spent fuel from foreign and domestic research reactors represents only a small part of the total DOE and commercial spent fuel inventory—less than 10 percent by volume of DOE's inventory and less than 1 percent by volume of the commercial spent fuel inventory. However, aluminum spent fuel represents a challenge for disposal because of its relatively high uranium-235 enrichment. For policy reasons, DOE is seeking alternate options to conventional reprocessing for safe treatment and eventual disposal of this fuel. DOE chartered a task team to review feasible treatment options and make recommendations, and the Savannah River Office of DOE was assigned the responsibility for implementing them. DOE-Savannah River requested that the National Research Council (NRC) conduct a review of its plans to treat for disposal the aluminum spent research reactor fuel under its management (Appendix A). This report is the product of that review. Because of the perceived urgency of the aluminum spent fuel program this has been a fast-track review—two months for data collection, one month for writing, and three months for the NRC review process—and has been possible only through the help and cooperation on the part of many people. We involved several expert consultants in our second information-gathering meeting (Appendix B). They adjusted their personal schedules with only one to two weeks advance notice to attend this meeting and provide written reports before the end of the year (these reports appear in Appendix D). The Savannah River staff of DOE and the site contractors, supported by staff from the Yucca Mountain Project, were flexible and responsive to our many requests for information and much more cooperative than has been this writer's past experience with DOE projects of a similar nature. They also have introduced an additional urgency into getting this report published—they are moving rapidly to correct some of the shortcomings identified by the task team report, by their own reviews, and through discussions at the two information-gathering meetings for this project. To be relevant we had to publish quickly.

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--> This report is the result of the Principal Investigator's digestion of a large amount of written information (Appendix F), information provided in the two information-gathering meetings, and a review of the consultants' reports (Appendix D). This was made possible to a large extent by the support and contributions of the NRC staff. Because of the short schedule and the large amount of paper to be reviewed, the work of Angela Taylor and Latricia Bailey in arranging the travel and meetings and turning the paper mill in high gear was essential in meeting our schedule. If this report is coherent, it is due to the considerable writing skills and dedication of Kevin Crowley who took my rambling thoughts and ''what about" nuggets and transformed them into regular sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. This is not a personal report—it has been subjected to the National Research Council's review process and is an NRC report—but if it contains errors of either omission or commission, they are mine. MILTON LEVENSON

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--> Contents     Summary   1     Findings Related to the Selection of Aluminum Spent Fuel Treatment Options   4     Findings Related to Waste-Package Performance Criteria   8     Findings Related to Costs and Timing of Aluminum Spent Fuel Treatment Options   11     Concluding Observations   12 1.   Background and Task   18     Task Statement and Study Process   22     Organization of this Report   29 2.   Treatment Options for Aluminum Spent Nuclear Fuel   30     Background   31     Treatment Technologies for Aluminum Spent Fuel   35     Direct Disposal Technologies   36     HEU Dilution Technologies   37     Advanced Treatment Technologies   39     Evaluating the Treatment Alternatives   41     Task Team Recommendations   45     Response to First Charge in Statement of Task   46 3.   Waste-Package Performance Criteria   56     Background   57     Waste Acceptance Criteria, 60 Other Requirements   62     Response to Second Charge in Statement of Task   65     Conclusions   75 4.   Cost And Schedule   77     Task Team Report Cost and Schedule Estimates   78     Alternative Cost Study   84     Comparison of Task Team and Alternative Cost Study Estimates   86     Response to Third Charge in Statement of Task   90

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--> 5.   Concluding Observations   94     Phased Decision and Implementation Strategy for Treatment-Option Selection   98     Spent Fuel Generation   99     Spent Fuel Receipt and Storage   104     Treatment and Interim Storage   105     Transport and Repository Disposal   111     Decontamination and Decommissioning   111     Post-2015 Aluminum Spent Fuel Inventory   111     Path Forward   112     References   113     Appendixes   117 A.   Study Request Letter from DOE-Savannah River   117 B.   Meeting Agendas and Participants List   119 C.   Charge to Consultants   124 D.   Consultant Reports   129     Harold Agnew   130     John Ahearne   131     Francis M. Alcorn,   133     M. W. Angvall   138     Robert M. Berero   141     Joseph Byrd   148     R. L. Dillon   154     G. Brian Estes   164     Harry Harmon   172     Valerie L. Putman   178     David Rossin   192     Paul Shewmon   199     Richard I. Smith   203 E.   Biographical Sketches of Consultants   211 F.   Documents Received in This Study   216 G.   Acronyms and Definitions   223