Treatment-Oriented Grouping

An alternative way of categorizing DOE's SNF is found in the DOE Spent Nuclear Fuel Technology Integration Plan.4 In this approach, DOE SNF is assigned to 53 fuel categories in an effort to reflect more than just physical differences. It was felt that these categories would better correspond with the technology needed to reduce existing vulnerabilities and stabilize and prepare SNF for interim storage and possibly for long-term disposal.

Figure 4 summarizes DOE SNF throughout all DOE sites on the basis of total mass, volume, number of storage units, uranium mass, mass of fissile materials, and mass of heavy metal. With respect to the total inventory, the majority of the fuel is located at three major sites: INEL, SRS, and Hanford. N-reactor fuel is the largest contributor according to almost every measure, but it is not the only DOE SNF that needs attention.

Of the approximately 150 SNF types in the DOE inventory, 25 types constitute 98% of the total mass. Nevertheless, solving the disposal problems for these fuels will still leave 125 fuel types that require a path to final disposition.

Over the next 40 years, the DOE SNF inventory is anticipated to increase by 42% in total mass but by only 3.6% in MTHM. The biggest contributors to the increase are naval SNF, followed by foreign research reactor SNF. By the year 2035, naval SNF will account for almost 50% of the total mass within the inventory.


Spent nuclear fuels that will probably require some sort of treatment prior to disposition for interim or long-term storage are those for which potential chemical reactions in the environment of a repository are of concern. Generally, these are metal, metal non-aluminum alloys, and carbide fuels. The most pressing concerns identified in 1993 by a special working group in the DOE include:5

  • Approximately 2100 MTHM of metallic N-reactor fuel located in the K-basins at Hanford;

  • Approximately 165 MTHM of spent fuel and target assemblies in the disassembly and canyon basins at SRS; and

  • Approximately 2.7 MTHM of metal-clad (Zr, Al, or stainless steel) SNF at the Fuel Storage Facility at INEL, as well as the EBR-II fuels, which are uranium metal fuels using Na metal for bonding to the Zr cladding.


DOE Spent Nuclear Fuel Technology Integration Plan, Department of Energy report SNF-PP-FS-002, December, 1994.


Spent Fuel Working Group Report on Inventory and Storage of the Department 's Spent Nuclear Fuel and Other Reactor Irradiated Nuclear Materials and Their Environmental, Safety and Health Vulnerabilities (3 volumes), U.S. Department of Energy, December, 1993.

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