Presentation on theme: "1 Commercial Spent Fuel Management By Thomas B. Cochran Natural Resources Defense Council Presented at the Meeting of the National Academy of Sciences."— Presentation transcript:
1 Commercial Spent Fuel Management By Thomas B. Cochran Natural Resources Defense Council Presented at the Meeting of the National Academy of Sciences Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board 6 December 2005 Washington, D.C.
2 Realizing that Yucca Mountain Leaks Badly, EPA Corrupted the Yucca Standards “Gerrymandered” the Compliance Boundary by extending it from 5 to 18 km in the direction of groundwater flow; Arbitrarily set a 10,000-year compliance period that would allow it to rely on man-made barriers, instead of the site’s geologic stability, to contain radioactivity; Significantly raised the allowable level of risk level in the post-10,000-year period when the compliance period was declared unlawful. EPA’s new proposed standard would permit estimated average radioactive doses so large that a woman today exposed at these levels over her lifetime would face about a 25 percent increased risk of dying of cancer.
3 Proposals intended to slow, stop and reverse the accumulation of spent nuclear fuel reprocessing using UREX+ and/or pyroprocessing transmutation using fast reactors
4 The closed fast-reactor fuel cycle for transmutation of waste is: Uneconomic Unreliable Unsafeguardable Unsafe Unworkable
5 Uneconomical For transmutation to work every fourth or fifth reactor must be a fast reactor that will cost considerably more than a water-cooled thermal reactor, perhaps twice the cost. A closed cycle with PUREX reprocessing costs more than an open cycle, UREX+ will cost more than PUREX and pyprocessing will likely cost more than UREX+.
6 Unreliable Historically, almost one-half of the world’s fast reactors have had serious accidents, operated unreliably, or were cancelled during construction, or shortly after becoming operational. After years of research pyroprocessing is still an unproven technology.
7 Unsafeguardable IAEA’s Significant Quantity (SQ) value for plutonium, 8 kilograms, is technically erroneous and too large by a factor of about eight. Each commercial-size fast reactors will contain on the order of five thousand kilograms of plutonium, and for each reactor the supporting fuel cycle will contain several times the reactor inventory.
8 Unsafeguardable (Cont.) The IAEA’s timeliness detection goal cannot be met at reprocessing plants. Mixtures of plutonium, neptunium-237, americium and curium are still direct-use weapon materials and are not self-protecting. Leaving transuranics mixed with plutonium does not solve the State-threat proliferation problem. Pyroprocessing R&D requires hot cells and cadres of experts in plutonium metallurgy and actinide chemistry.
9 Unsafe Fast reactors have a poor safety track record. Because pyroprocessing produces a metal fuel, some Argonne scientists are now proposing to revert to metal-fueled fast reactors for transmutation. This will eliminate the strong negative-feedback doppler coefficient associated with the use of ceramic fuels in fast reactors.
10 Unworkable In an unregulated utility industry, the U.S. taxpayer would have to heavily subsidize the fast reactors, and/or the federal government would have to order nuclear generating companies to build them. The government would have to federalized the entire back-end of the closed fuel cycle including reprocessing plants. This uneconomic, unreliable, unsafeguardable and unsafe fuel cycle would have to take place over 100+ years.
11 If This Is Not Bad Enough Several costly reprocessing plants would need to be built for each geologic repository avoided. IAEA safeguards currently permits these unsafeguardable facilities to be built and operated in non-weapon states. The so-called “proliferation resistant” reprocessing technologies actually increase the proliferation risks relative to the once- through fuel cycle. There is no evidence that the releases from the closed fuel cycle will have fewer health impacts than the health impacts due to projected releases from geologic repositories.
12 NRDC’s Preferred Solution Terminate proliferation risky R&D on fast reactors and pyroprocessing. Initiate a search for a second geological repository in the United States. Improve interim dry cask storage of spent fuel at operating reactor sites. Allow away-from-reactor spent fuel storage for decommissioned reactors.