would preclude direct disposal in a geologic repository. Of particular concern was sodium-bonded fuel such as that from the EBR-II reactor at ANL’s site in Idaho.

A key step in the ANL’s proposal was treatment of all the EBR-II spent fuel as a demonstration of the technology. However, in response to a lawsuit, DOE scaled down the size of the demonstration so that it could be carried out under the scope of the existing Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).4 As a result, the demonstration project was refocused to treat only part of the EBR-II spent fuel. As work progressed on the EBR-II spent fuel, the committee’s technical evaluation of electrometallurgical technology became increasingly focused on the demonstration project—which provided the primary source of data on which the committee could make its assessments.

The committee, throughout its three phases of operation, has consistently recommended that ANL adopt a set of criteria by which the success of the use of electrometallurgical technology could be judged.5,6 For the demonstration project, ANL adopted a set of four success criteria, together with specific technical goals to meet each of the criteria.7 These success criteria are discussed in greater detail in Chapter 6.

During its tenure, the committee has operated under three different statements of task. Although in each phase it addressed a different aspect of the use of EMT for the treatment of SNF, the committee in all three phases operated under the general charge of evaluating the technical viability of electrometallurgical technology for treatment of DOE spent nuclear fuel.8 This technical evaluation was performed based on the R&D pursued by ANL in its EBR-II electrometallurgical demonstration project.

THE COMMITTEE’S WORK

Phase One

In phase one, the committee evaluated ANL’s research related to EMT that had been performed up to that point (i.e., the Integral Fast Reactor Program, see Chapter 2). In addition, the committee received briefings from experts in EMT, which provided a basis for the committee’s assessment of ANL’s R&D plan. Committee members also were briefed on ANL’s decision to utilize EBR-II spent nuclear fuel for the EMT demonstration program. In phase one of its work, the committee did not address whether EMT should be adopted as a component of the national strategy for handling nuclear materials. Although it evaluated EMT in light of other technical options, the committee refrained at this stage from suggesting which option should be pursued.

The committee in phase one produced two reports on ANL’s program plan for electrometallurgical technology:

  • A Preliminary Assessment of the Promise of Continued R&D into an Electrometallurgical Approach for Treating DOE Spent Fuel (1995, Report 1),9 and

  • An Assessment of Continued R&D into an Electrometallurgical Approach for Treating DOE Spent Nuclear Fuel (1992, Report 2).

The committee recommended that ANL proceed with its development plan for an EMT demonstration.

4  

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management Idaho Operations Office, Department of Energy Programmatic Spent Nuclear Fuel Management and Idaho National Engineering Laboratory Environmental Restoration and Waste Management Programs Final Environmental Impact Statement, DOE/EIS-0203-F, U.S. Department of Energy, Idaho Falls, ID, 1995.

5  

National Research Council, An Assessment of Continued R&D into an Electrometallurgical Approach for Treating DOE Spent Nuclear Fuel, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1995, pp. S-7 and S-8.

6  

National Research Council, Electrometallurgical Techniques for DOE Spent Fuel Treatment: Fall 1996 Status Report on Argonne National Laboratory’s R&D Activity, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1997, p. 7.

7  

National Research Council, Electrometallurgical Techniques for DOE Spent Fuel Treatment: Spring 1998 Status Report on Argonne National Laboratory’s R&D Activity, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1998

8  

See Appendix A for the statements of task for the committee in each of the three phases of its work.

9  

Report numbers indicate the order of release of the nine committee reports issued to date by the National Research Council and published by the National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. The recommendations made in each of the reports are reproduced in Appendix D.



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