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Nuclear Energy Institute
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 10, 2008
Contact: media@nei.org, 202.739.8000 or 703.644.8805 (after hours and weekends)

DOE Report Overlooks Benefits of Interim Storage of Used Fuel

WASHINGTON, D.C.— The Department of Energy today released two reports to Congress related to the federal government’s management of used nuclear fuel. The department’s report to the president and the Congress on the need for a second geologic repository is a statutory obligation of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, while its report on the demonstration of the interim storage of spent nuclear fuel responds to the request of a 2008 House Appropriations Committee Report. The Nuclear Energy Institute’s Senior Director for Used Fuel Management, Steven Kraft, made the following remarks today in response to the department’s issuance of the two reports.

“In its interim storage report to Congress, the Department of Energy takes a narrow view of interim storage of used nuclear fuel that misses both the strategic value and the feasibility of central interim storage as part of an integrated management strategy for used fuel. 

“The nuclear industry and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission agree that used fuel storage at nuclear plant sites and at independent storage facilities is safe and secure.  Such storage would provide the time needed to develop advanced recycling technologies and facilities as well as the geologic repository for material that cannot be recycled, while demonstrating the nation’s ability to begin safe central management and movement of used nuclear fuel. 

“In addition, DOE could contract for services at private storage facilities to meet its legal and contractual obligations to take used fuel from commercial reactors, especially those that have been decommissioned.”
 
The nuclear energy industry believes that there are communities in the United States interested in hosting interim storage facilities and companies that may be interested in building such facilities.

The industry supports a three-pronged, integrated used fuel management strategy: (1) interim storage; (2) research, development and demonstration to recycle nuclear fuel; and (3) development of a permanent disposal facility that is suitable for the final waste form.

In its report on the nation’s need for a second repository for the nation’s used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste, the nuclear energy industry commends the department for recognizing that the statutory capacity limit of 70,000 metric tons is an arbitrary one, and that the Yucca Mountain repository site could accommodate ‘at least three times’ the amount of fuel allowed under the congressional limit.

“The nuclear industry agrees with the Department of Energy that there is no technical basis for the 70,000 metric ton limit of heavy metal for the nation’s first repository, and encourages the department to pursue legislation that would lift this statutory cap.”

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