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On-Site Storage of Nuclear Waste

Used Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste

A typical nuclear power plant in a year generates 20 metric tons of used nuclear fuel. The nuclear industry generates a total of about 2,000 - 2,300 metric tons of used fuel per year.

Over the past four decades, the entire industry has produced about 69,720 metric tons of used nuclear fuel. If used fuel assemblies were stacked end-to-end and side-by-side, this would cover a football field about seven yards deep.

High-level radioactive waste is the byproduct of recycling used nuclear fuel, which in its final form will be disposed of in a permanent disposal facility. NEI supports the recycling of used nuclear fuel as part of its integrated fuel management strategy, which includes 1) interim storage 2) research, development and demonstration to recycle nuclear fuel, and 3) development of a permanent disposal facility suitable for the final waste form.

Low-Level Radioactive Waste

Low-level radioactive waste (LLRW) consists of items that have come in contact with radioactive materials, such as gloves, personal protective clothing, tools, water purification filters and resins, plant hardware, and wastes from reactor cooling-water cleanup systems. It generally has levels of radioactivity that decay to background radioactivity levels in less than 500 years. About 95 percent decays to background levels within 100 years or less.

The NRC has adopted a waste classification system for low-level radioactive waste based on its potential hazards, and has specified disposal and waste form requirements for each of the general classes of waste: Class A, Class B and Class C waste. Although the classification of waste can be complex, Class A waste generally contains lower concentrations of long half-lived radioactive material than Class B and C wastes. For more information see the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Active low-level waste licensed disposal facilities include the following:

  • Barnwell, located in Barnwell, SC. Previously, Barnwell accepted waste from all U.S. generators. As of July 2008, Barnwell only accepts waste from the Atlantic Compact States (Connecticut, New Jersey, and South Carolina). Barnwell is licensed by the State of South Carolina to receive all classes of LLRW.

  • Compact Waste Facility, located in Andrews County, TX. Waste Control Specialists LLC operates the Compact Waste Facility site. The site is owned and licensed by the state of Texas and is able to receive all classes of LLRW.

  • Energy Solutions, located in Clive, UT. Energy Solutions accepts waste from all regions of the United States. It is licensed by the State of Utah for Class A waste only.

  • Hanford, located in Hanford, WA. Hanford accepts waste from the Northwest and Rocky Mountain compacts. Hanford is licensed by the State of Washington to receive all classes of LLRW.

On-Site Storage

U.S. commercial nuclear power plants with on-site dry used fuel storage facilities:

Manufacturers of interim used fuel storage systems:

  • BNG Fuel Solutions Corporation
  • General Nuclear Systems, Inc.
  • Holtec International Inc.
  • NAC International, Inc. 
  • Transnuclear Inc. 

Interim Dry Used Fuel Storage Facilities

vertical storage

Vertical Storage

horizontal storage
Horizontal Storage