has not examined costs, the committee believes that the uncertainty and timeliness for the present proposed electrometallurgical technique would not alter the conclusion of the earlier report.

The ANL program for development of the electrometallurgical technique constitutes a demonstration of this technology for the treatment of certain DOE spent fuels. DOE has determined that the first such fuels to be processed are the elements withdrawn from the EBR-II reactor, which total about 48.4 metric tons of heavy metal (MTHM). Successful demonstration of this technology on a suitable scale on actual spent fuel is considered essential to proving its practicability. 6 Additionally, the demonstration will provide necessary data on remote operations and maintenance in an inert atmosphere and on the effects of high levels of radioactivity. If the electrometallurgical technique is to be considered for disposal of excess plutonium, the feasibility of this technique must be validated. The current ANL program for treatment of EBR-II fuel appears to be the most cost-effective and timely way to make that demonstration for several but not all elements of the electrometallurgical technique. One of the important factors in the ANL program is the timeliness of the demonstration to allow decisions to be made about the possible application of this technique to the treatment of other DOE spent fuels. In its previous report, 7 this committee endorsed certain schedule milestones and emphasized to DOE the importance of its maintaining an already tight schedule.

Were the electrometallurgical technique to be demonstrated successfully for treatment of DOE spent fuel and the issues relating to the waste forms resolved, the electrometallurgical technique could provide a potential method for handling excess plutonium at some later time. However, the committee recently has been made aware that some of the major milestones identified in its 1995 report have not been met: “[S]pent fuel treatment or processing activities using irradiated spent fuel are not authorized at this time pending completion of a further National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.”8 In the absence of this necessary demonstration, the basis for evaluating the electrometallurgical approach as an option for plutonium disposition is unlikely to be available.

6  

An Assessment of Continued R|andsymbol|D into an Electrometallurgical Approach for Treating DOE Spent Nuclear Fuel, National Research Council, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., July 1995.

7  

See footnote 6.

8  

Letter of 29 Nov. 1995 from Y.T. Chang, ANL, to R. Neuhold, DOE.



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