The Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative and Global Nuclear Energy Partnership Programs


From the first introduction of nuclear power, the management of spent nuclear fuel, especially the highly radioactive components, has been a concern. Three main issues underlie this concern: the disposal of nuclear wastes, the reduction of opportunities for nuclear weapons proliferation, and the long-term supply of fissionable material for nuclear fuel. A central question in dealing with these issues is whether to close the nuclear fuel cycle by reprocessing the spent fuel and recycling its components or to employ a once-through fuel cycle, treating spent fuel as waste. Various nations have answered this question differently.

In 1976, the United States decided to suspend plans for reprocessing and recycling plutonium due to the potential risk of proliferation. Then in 1979, it changed its policy, deciding to defer reprocessing indefinitely and to pursue the once-through fuel cycle. Some countries, notably France, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Soviet Union, and Japan, continued to reprocess plutonium. In France, the recovered plutonium is now recycled once in the form of uranium-plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel to produce power while the rest of the minor actinides, primarily neptunium (Np), americium (Am), and curium (Cu), and the fission products from the spent fuel are stored until a repository is available. Other isotopes such as krypton (Kr) and iodine (I) are released as effluent.

All nuclear fuel cycle options, including closed fuel cycles, require the capacity for permanent disposal of high-level wastes. The National Research Council (NRC) recommended in 1957 that deep geologic isolation would be a suitable approach for disposal (NRC, 1957). Other nations have adopted the same view. However, no nation yet has a fully functioning geologic disposal operation for high-level radioactive waste.

Since 2002, the United States has been conducting a program of spent fuel reprocessing research and development (R&D), in part to consider alternative spent fuel management options. This program is built on earlier work funded by DOE that was evaluated by the 1996 NRC report Nuclear Wastes: Technologies for Separations and Transmutation. The Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative (AFCI) was the program under which DOE was carrying out its long-term direction to recycle nuclear fuel waste. In February 2006, 5 months before the committee’s first meeting, the United States announced a change in its nuclear energy programs. The FY 2007 budget request included work on recycling that would be done under a new effort, the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). This new effort would incorporate the AFCI as one of its activities. If the recycling R&D program leads to successful deployment, GNEP would eventually require the United States to be an active participant in the community of nations that recycle fuel, because part of the GNEP program has some nations recycling the nuclear wastes for other user nations. The presumption is that by having only a few supplier nations carry out the enrichment and recycling for many others, nuclear power could be made economically attractive to the user nations and, at the same time, the number of locations where enrichment and recycling are carried out would be minimized, reducing opportunities for diversion of fissionable material and misuse of fuel cycle facilities and technologies.

In this way, the AFCI/GNEP program under review by this committee is being conducted in the face of change and uncertainty in U.S. policies for the disposition of commercial spent fuel and high-level waste. One effect of this uncertainty is to make more difficult the acquisition of clear and complete program documentation. To develop the necessary information for its evaluation, the committee has drawn on interviews with individuals from DOE, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI),

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement

Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 47
4 The advanced Fuel cycle initiative and Global Nuclear energy Partnership Programs BacKGroUNd Since 2002, the United States has been conducting a pro- gram of spent fuel reprocessing research and development From the first introduction of nuclear power, the manage- (R&D), in part to consider alternative spent fuel manage- ment of spent nuclear fuel, especially the highly radioactive ment options. This program is built on earlier work funded components, has been a concern. Three main issues underlie by DOE that was evaluated by the 1996 NRC report Nuclear this concern: the disposal of nuclear wastes, the reduction Wastes: Technologies for Separations and Transmutation. of opportunities for nuclear weapons proliferation, and the The Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative (AFCI) was the program long-term supply of fissionable material for nuclear fuel. A under which DOE was carrying out its long-term direction to central question in dealing with these issues is whether to recycle nuclear fuel waste. In February 2006, 5 months before close the nuclear fuel cycle by reprocessing the spent fuel the committee’s first meeting, the United States announced and recycling its components or to employ a once-through a change in its nuclear energy programs. The FY 2007 bud- fuel cycle, treating spent fuel as waste. Various nations have get request included work on recycling that would be done answered this question differently. under a new effort, the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership In 1976, the United States decided to suspend plans for (GNEP). This new effort would incorporate the AFCI as reprocessing and recycling plutonium due to the potential one of its activities. If the recycling R&D program leads to risk of proliferation. Then in 1979, it changed its policy, successful deployment, GNEP would eventually require the deciding to defer reprocessing indefinitely and to pursue the United States to be an active participant in the community of once-through fuel cycle. Some countries, notably France, nations that recycle fuel, because part of the GNEP program the United Kingdom, Germany, the Soviet Union, and Japan, has some nations recycling the nuclear wastes for other user continued to reprocess plutonium. In France, the recovered nations. The presumption is that by having only a few sup- plutonium is now recycled once in the form of uranium-plu- plier nations carry out the enrichment and recycling for many tonium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel to produce power while the others, nuclear power could be made economically attractive rest of the minor actinides, primarily neptunium (Np), ameri- to the user nations and, at the same time, the number of loca- cium (Am), and curium (Cu), and the fission products from tions where enrichment and recycling are carried out would be the spent fuel are stored until a repository is available. Other minimized, reducing opportunities for diversion of fissionable isotopes such as krypton (Kr) and iodine (I) are released as material and misuse of fuel cycle facilities and technologies. effluent. In this way, the AFCI/GNEP program under review by All nuclear fuel cycle options, including closed fuel this committee is being conducted in the face of change and cycles, require the capacity for permanent disposal of high- uncertainty in U.S. policies for the disposition of commercial level wastes. The National Research Council (NRC) recom- spent fuel and high-level waste. One effect of this uncer- mended in 1957 that deep geologic isolation would be a tainty is to make more difficult the acquisition of clear and suitable approach for disposal (NRC, 1957). Other nations complete program documentation. To develop the necessary have adopted the same view. However, no nation yet has a information for its evaluation, the committee has drawn on fully functioning geologic disposal operation for high-level interviews with individuals from DOE, the Nuclear Energy radioactive waste. Institute (NEI), the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), 

OCR for page 47
 REVIEW OF DOE’S NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM academia, and others, as described in Appendix E, and on a also has a fourth “system management” objective that em- phasizes safe and economic nuclear materials management, variety of written reports.1 integrating all of the above considerations. The committee also saw copies of slides presented at a GNEP panel session at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Com- It is of particular importance to note that the AFCI was to mission (USNRC) on March 15, 2007, and GNEP-relevant provide an alternative to building the multiple repositories presentations at the American Chemical Society annual that might be needed for the once-through fuel cycle and to meeting on March 27, 2007. The GNEP Technology Devel- support a growing role for nuclear energy. The published opment Plan (TDP) was released on July 25, 2007, after the DOE GNEP strategy does not consider the possibility of committee began its peer review stage. Because TDP said Yucca Mountain being rejected or of it being accepted and that the plans it described did “not necessarily reflect the its capacity significantly increased for the storage of more views and decisions of the Department of Energy,” the com- spent fuel. AFCI was to inform the Secretary of Energy about mittee could not accept it as DOE policy and had to use other the need for a second repository as early as January 1, 2007, references (e.g., reports of the Organisation for Economic and no later than January 1, 2010, because according to the Co-operation and Development (OECD) in evaluating the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, the Secretary is required to report technical aspects of fuel recycling. to Congress on that schedule. In the balance of this chapter, the committee first describes To meet its objectives, AFCI examined four fuel cycle the AFCI program as it existed until 2006 and then describes strategies (DOE, 2006c, p. 11): and evaluates its successor, GNEP. The chapter concludes with the committee’s findings and recommendations. • The current U.S. strategy is once-through—all the com- ponents of spent fuel are kept together and sent to a geologic repository for disposal. Proliferation concerns and efficient Use of Nuclear Fuel: • The second strategy is recycling in thermal reactors The aFci context only. Uranium in spent fuel and depleted uranium would be The United States rejected the idea of recycling spent disposed of as low-level waste. Transuranic elements, such nuclear fuel during the 1970s because the then-available as plutonium and neptunium, would be recycled several methods all produced separated plutonium, which can be times, deferring the need for a second geologic repository. purified relatively easily into material to make a fission However, eventually transuranic elements would accumulate bomb. Similarly, the uranium enrichment process can be and would require geologic disposal. Long-lived fission misused to generate enough highly enriched uranium to make products would also go to geologic disposal. Short-lived fis- nuclear weapons. The United States and other countries that sion products would be first stored and ultimately disposed are members of the International Atomic Energy Agency of as low-level waste. This strategy would use existing types (IAEA) have worked to reduce proliferation risks and to rec- of nuclear power plants, which are all thermal reactors. tify the shortcomings identified by the International Nuclear • The third strategy is sustained recycle with a symbiotic Fuel Cycle Evaluation (IAEA, 1980). mix of thermal and fast reactors, recycling transuranic ele- Since the time of that decision not to recycle, other re- ments from spent fuel repeatedly until destroyed. The intro- cycling processes have been under development that do not duction of fast reactors makes this strategy sustainable from yield separated plutonium. In the United States, processes the repository standpoint; the accumulation of transuranic were worked on, beginning in 2002, under the AFCI, which elements during repeated recycle passes is controlled and itself had grown out of the Accelerator Transmutation of limited by fast reactors serving as transuranic element burn- Waste program, initiated in 1999. This effort was under the ers. Essentially no transuranic elements would go to geo- direction of DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy (NE). The logic disposal, only processing losses. Uranium and fission AFCI program was created with the following objectives products would be disposed of as with thermal recycling. (DOE, 2005; 2006c, p. 3): This strategy requires a significant, but minority, fraction of nuclear power plants to be fast reactors, which are being AFCI technology development focuses on reducing the researched by the Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems long-term environmental burden of nuclear waste, improving initiative. proliferation resistance, and enhancing the use of nuclear fuel resources. The program has one major objective associated • The fourth strategy is sustained recycle with fast reac- with each of these three considerations. The AFCI Program tors, recycling both uranium and transuranic elements repeat- edly until all energy is extracted. Phasing out thermal reac- tors in favor of fast reactors means that all types of uranium 1 For AFCI, Comparison Report, FY 2005, May 2005 (DOE, 2005); ultimately serve as fuel; thus this strategy is sustainable both Comparison Report, FY 2006 Update, July 2006 (DOE, 2006c); and Status Report for FY 2006, February 2006 (DOE, 2006a). in terms of repository constraints and in terms of uranium ore For GNEP, Mission Need for GNEP, approved on March 22, 2006 (DOE, resources. Essentially no uranium or transuranic elements 2006b); GNEP Implementation Strategy, November 2006 (DOE, 2006d); would be wasted, only processing losses. As with other and GNEP Strategic Plan, January 2007 (DOE, 2007). recycle strategies, long-lived fission products would tend to

OCR for page 47
 THE ADVANCED FUEL CYCLE INITIATIVE AND GLObAL NUCLEAR ENERGY PARTNERSHIP PROGRAMS go to geologic disposal; short-lived fission products would • Expand nuclear power to help meet growing energy demand in an environmentally sustainable manner. be stored and ultimately disposed of as low-level waste after • Develop, demonstrate, and deploy advanced technolo- sufficient decay. This strategy would use Generation IV fast gies for recycling spent nuclear fuel that do not separate reactors. plutonium, with the goal over time of ceasing separation of plutonium and eventually eliminating excess stocks of civil- AFCI envisioned that for all fuel cycles, long-lived fis- ian plutonium and drawing down existing stocks of civilian sion products and residual transuranics would go to geologic spent fuel. Such advanced fuel cycle technologies would disposal. For the last three fuel cycles, short-lived fission substantially reduce nuclear waste, simplify its disposition, products would be managed separately to allow decay heat and help to ensure the need for only one geologic repository levels to drop before disposal as waste, either into a high- in the United States through the end of this century. level waste geologic repository after several decades of in- • Develop, demonstrate, and deploy advanced reactors terim storage or as low-level waste after approximately 300 that consume transuranic elements from recycled spent fuel. years’ storage. Large inventories of transuranics would reside • Establish supply arrangements among nations to pro- in the fuel cycle. Depending on the future evolution and use vide reliable fuel services worldwide for generating nuclear of nuclear energy, particularly if nuclear energy is replaced energy, by providing nuclear fuel and taking back spent fuel in the longer term with other energy sources, most of these for recycling, without spreading enrichment and reprocess- transuranics could also require geologic disposal when the ing technologies. fast reactors are decommissioned. • Develop, demonstrate, and deploy advanced, prolif- The newer recycling processes would, if adopted, impact eration resistant nuclear power reactors appropriate for the security in a number of ways. To help protect against the power grids of developing countries and regions. threat of concealed diversion of fissionable material, keeping • In cooperation with the IAEA, develop enhanced nucle- other materials mixed with plutonium increases the effective- ar safeguards to effectively and efficiently monitor nuclear ness of safeguards containment and surveillance measures materials and facilities, to ensure commercial nuclear energy systems are used only for peaceful purposes. but may complicate material accounting. Avoiding the sepa- ration of pure plutonium is beneficial because it may increase The charge to the committee concerns the technical, the mass, bulk, and radioactivity of the material and can shift scientific, economic, and management aspects of the GNEP the handling of the material into less accessibe locations, program. Therefore, it has focused primarily on the second such as hot cells. At the same time, the radioactivity of the and third objectives. Though the fifth objective is also within plutonium plus actinides is not significantly higher than that the committee’s purview, DOE appears to be in only the early of just plutonium itself. Moreover, separation of plutonium stages of formulating a plan for this work, so the committee plus actinides does not preclude its use in weapons. Although has not attempted to evaluate it. weapons made from the unseparated material may be less Questions of international collaboration lie outside the powerful than those made from material meant to be put into charge of this study. It is worth noting that the commit- weapons, the effects would still be devastating. tee learned of efforts to establish discussions with other The programs that would eventually become AFCI re- countries, notably to initiate collaboration with the Russian ceived funding of $68.7 million in FY 2001, $77.2 million Global Nuclear Infrastructure (GNI) (WNN, 2007). It is in FY 2002, and $57.3 million in FY 2003. In FY 2004, unclear how well the GNI goals fit with those of GNEP. In AFCI officially came into existence and was funded at $65.8 addition, the committee learned from some of its outside million in FY 2004, $66.4 million in FY 2005, and $78.4 expert consultants about the challenges surrounding the million in FY 2006 (see Table 1-1). Beginning in FY 2007, international aspects of bringing GNEP to reality, and there DOE requested that the AFCI program be subsumed in a are some aspects of international interactions that do have a larger program, GNEP, described below, and requested $243 direct bearing on the response to the charge. These will be million for the AFCI account. addressed in a later section. DOE’s strategic plan for GNEP contains the following criteria: oVerall ProGram descriPTioN The goals of DOE’s GNEP program appear to consist of • Proliferation/safeguards risk. “The risk of non-peace- what DOE terms “objectives” and “criteria.” In its GNEP ful use of the civilian nuclear fuel cycle comes from two Strategic Plan (DOE, 2007, pp. 1-10 and 2-10), DOE says principal sources: (1) a nation wanting to advance toward that in order to the capability to build nuclear weapons in a shorter period of time and (2) a terrorist group wanting to divert nuclear enable the expansion of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes materials to quickly fabricate and explode an improvised and make a major contribution to global development into the 21st century, the United States seeks to pursue and ac- nuclear device or a dirty bomb. GNEP aims to address both celerate cooperation to: of these issues by providing incentives to forego enrichment

OCR for page 47
0 REVIEW OF DOE’S NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM and reprocessing facilities, and by eliminating over time achieved by removing the fission products cesium and stron- excess stockpiles of civil plutonium.” (DOE, 2007, p. 2-10) tium from the high level waste stream and allowing them to • Proliferation preention. “Preventing the spread of decay separately. These elements have a relatively short half commercial nuclear technology does not by itself prevent the life and after decay could be disposed of as low level waste. spread of weapons capability. . . . The plutonium contained Additionally, removing the technetium and fixing it in a in spent fuel discharged from a light water reactor is not matrix with the cladding hulls could reduce the possibility of considered ‘weapons grade.’ However, plutonium separated this fission product migrating away from the repository area. from spent nuclear fuel could be fashioned into a weapon DOE has been conducting work on processes to achieve all and achieve a nuclear yield of some magnitude. . . . While of these additional advanced partitioning objectives as well safeguarding bulk-handling facilities will continue to pose as work on how to recycle and consume these materials in a significant technical challenges, advances have been made fast spectrum reactor. To date these efforts have been carried in developing processes that are easier to safeguard, allow out as part of the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative, and it is improved materials accountability, are more resistant to proposed to continue this work as part of the broader GNEP terrorist threat, and offer the possibility of placing a much initiative. Similar work is being carried out in Japan, France, reduced burden on our waste disposal facilities. However, and Russia with promising results.” (DOE, 2007, p. 4-10) • Assured fuel supply. “The U.S. seeks to encourage the there is no technology ‘siler bullet’ that can be built into world’s leading nuclear exporters to create a safe, orderly an enrichment plant or reprocessing plant that can preent a system that spreads nuclear energy without proliferation. country from dierting these commercial fuel cycle facilities to non-peaceful use. . . . GNEP seeks to develop advanced States that refrain from enrichment and reprocessing would fuel cycle technology for civil purposes, centered in exist- have reliable access at reasonable cost to fuel for civil nuclear ing fuel cycle states that would allow them to provide fuel power reactors. . . . The implication for the U.S. is that if we services more cheaply and reliably than the other states could are going to participate in assuring access to nuclear fuel and, provide indigenously.” (DOE, 2007, p. 3-10) in the longer term, spent fuel services to these countries as • Terrorist threat reduction. “In the most general terms, they enter the nuclear arena, the U.S. must have the capa- GNEP seeks to eliminate over time excess stocks of sepa- bility to provide the needed fuel cycle services—capability rated plutonium and reduce stocks of spent fuel worldwide, that we do not currently possess. Our fuel cycle technology thereby strengthening nuclear security worldwide. In more should also build our ability, and those of our partners, to specific terms, a key objective with respect to any GNEP establish and sustain ‘cradle to grave’ fuel service or leasing recycling facility is to deny access to fissile nuclear materi- arrangements over time and at a scale commensurate with als of critical mass that could be readily made into a nuclear the anticipated expansion of nuclear energy by helping in a device. Supportive policies can be implemented in this major way to solve the nuclear waste challenge. (DOE, 2007, regard: (1) minimize transportation; keep fissile materials pp. 4-10 and 5-10) inside one integrated facility from the time used fuel enters • Capability and leerage. “The GNEP vision has been until recycled material leaves; (2) maintain a mixture of fis- well received by the international nuclear community, par- sile material with non-fissile material in a ratio that is not ticularly among the leading fuel cycle states. Sustaining and easily useable as a weapon; (3) use advanced safeguards and building on that enthusiasm depends on the U.S. ability to security techniques; and (4) maintain a goal of minimizing get back in the commercial nuclear business and assume an the buildup of, and eventually eliminating, stockpiles of active role. Participating fully in that business is essential in separated civilian plutonium or its near equivalent.” (DOE, order to shape the rules that apply to it. . . . We have a vision 2007, p 3-10) of a future world that can universally enjoy the benefits of • Reduced repository burden. “Commercial spent nuclear safe, economical, emission-free energy; and we have pro- fuel can either be disposed of directly into a repository (e.g., grams and plans to put the U.S. back in the nuclear energy Yucca Mountain in the U.S.) or reprocessed/recycled and game in a leadership role. Access to our market is itself a the byproduct high level waste sent to a repository. . . . The form of leverage.” (DOE, 2007, p. 5-10) full benefit envisioned for the separations process in GNEP anticipates substantial repository benefits (by separating out Three facilities are key components of the GNEP program all the actinides) and a reduction in liquid process waste. as currently planned: (1) a nuclear fuel recycling center or The most significant repository benefits can be achieved centralized fuel treatment center (CFTC), (2) an advanced by removing the very long-lived minor actinides and recy- sodium-cooled burner reactor (ABR), which is a fast-neutron cling them as part of the fuel for fast reactors. To obtain a reactor, and (3) an advanced fuel cycle facility (AFCF). At repository capacity increase ranging from one to two orders the CFTC, spent fuel would be separated into specific waste of magnitude and allow Yucca Mountain to satisfy our re- streams, some of which would go to the ABR (the CFTC is pository needs for the remainder of the 21st century it will sized to fuel many ABRs, as discussed later in this report) be necessary to remove and fission through recycle the very as transmutation fuel and others of which would go to a re- long-lived minor actinides. Further repository benefit can be pository or long-term storage or be disposed of as low-level

OCR for page 47
 THE ADVANCED FUEL CYCLE INITIATIVE AND GLObAL NUCLEAR ENERGY PARTNERSHIP PROGRAMS waste. Initially the transuranics and much of the uranium future of GNEP—whether to conduct more R&D or proceed would go to the AFCF, which would turn those streams to commercial scale—is scheduled for June 2008. into transmutation fuel in the form of lead test assemblies, send its waste to a repository, and accept spent fuel from aNalYsis aNd eValUaTioN oF The ProPosed LWRs as well as partially transmuted fuel from the ABR. GNeP ProGram Subsequently, once the lead fuel designs were qualified, fuel fabrication would be located at the CFTC to minimize the The results of the committee’s evaluation of the technical, transport of materials. The ABR would need, in addition to scientific, economic, and management aspects of the GNEP the fuel from the CFTC and the AFCF, some start-up fuel, program are presented in this section. The evaluation looked whether uranium or plutonium. A principal function of the at the technical and scientific options available for accom- ABR would be to fission transuranic elements, while a sec- plishing some of the GNEP goals, particularly minimizing ondary function would be to produce electricity. the burden on domestic nuclear waste repositories. The DOE has proposed that the CFTC be able to handle 2,000 to 3,000 metric tonnes (MT) per year of spent fuel. reducing the Nuclear Waste repository Burden (Note that the current U.S. fleet of 104 operating reactors produces only 2,000 MT/yr of spent fuel, and 56,000 MT Under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (NWPA), is already in storage.) At the time of the writing of this re- Congress mandated that high-level nuclear waste be put port, the latest information the committee had was that the into a geologic repository to be managed by DOE. The baseline process was UREX+1a, although some other com- 1987 Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act directed DOE parable separation technology, most notably pyroprocessing, to evaluate only the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada for its may be adopted at a later stage. The ABR thermal power is suitability as a geologic repository. Disposal was to begin in planned to be 500 to 2,000 MWth. Both facilities should be 1998 but was delayed for several reasons, including strong capable of being licensed by the USNRC, although it is not opposition by the state of Nevada, technical issues associated clear if licensing is part of the GNEP plan. The locations of with the site, the rewriting of EPA standards as the result of GNEP facilities have not been determined, although various lawsuits and congressional action, insufficient appropriations expressions of interest and environmental impacts are being from the Nuclear Waste Fund, and differences of opinion be- assessed. tween the two political parties. The site was approved by the GNEP as currently proposed has DOE as the leader for President and Congress in July 2002, though final approval the AFCF and private companies as leaders for the CFTC rests with the USNRC, which grants construction and waste and ABR. The strategic plan states that “a GNEP goal is to acceptance licenses. Program delays have continued for develop and implement fuel cycle facilities in a way that several reasons, including design changes, inadequate quality will not require a large amount of government construction assurance, and management problems relating to the Yucca and operating funding to sustain it” (DOE, 2007, p. 6-10). Mountain site. DOE is now scheduled to submit a license According to DOE, industry has filed expressions of inter- application in June 2008. If DOE keeps to that schedule, est (EOIs) that show a potential willingness to invest large the USNRC’s review of the license application should be sums of private funds to build and operate GNEP fuel cycle completed by 2012 if the USNRC meets certain reporting facilities. Because the EOI responses include proprietary requirements. Spent fuel could then be accepted starting in information, the committee was not allowed to review them. 2017, but even DOE has little expectation of meeting that The plan does recognize, however, that federal support for schedule. Meanwhile, spent fuel waste continues to be stored R&D and incentives is needed to ensure that the long-term at reactor sites. goals are met. The strategic plan does not elaborate on the The total volume of nuclear waste from conventional character or scale of the federal incentives, nor does it say LWRs is large enough to require serious attention. The ther- how reprocessing and recycling costs, including potential mal and radiation characteristics of the waste are the main subsidies for fast reactors, would (presumably) be passed on concerns in designing the repository and determining its to nuclear electricity consumers in the form of fees or other capacity. The NWPA established a capacity limit of 70,000 charges to recover private investors’ initial investments. MT of waste for Yucca Mountain, 63,000 MT of which is Since the federal government is funded in FY 2007 designated for commercial spent fuel and the remainder for through a Continuing Resolution (CR), the complete redirec- defense wastes. By the end of 2006, about 56,000 MT of tion of AFCI into GNEP is proceeding at a slower pace than spent fuel had been generated by U.S. nuclear power plants, had been planned. The FY 2007 CR appropriation agreement and that inventory is growing at approximately 2,000 MT/yr. funds AFCI/GNEP at the level of $167.5 million, including If all operating reactors receive 20-year license extensions, the authority to redirect other programmatic funds to this the total amount of waste from the current U.S. fleet could initiative. The administration has requested $395 million exceed 120,000 MT. for FY 2008. A decision by the Secretary of Energy on the Although a statutory limit has been placed on the re- pository capacity, there is a wide range of opinion about

OCR for page 47
 REVIEW OF DOE’S NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM the technical limits on the capacity. The technical limits of available evidence suggests that the capacity of Yucca Moun- Yucca Mountain capacity are determined by the total area tain exceeds the current statutory limit of 70,000 MT. If its available with suitable geologic characteristics and by two opening is delayed, spent fuel can be stored using dry-cask criteria related to the management of heat from the decay of storage. Spent nuclear fuel that has spent 5 years cooling in spent fuel. Significant uncertainty surrounds both the area on-site water pools can be put into passively cooled casks, available that is suitable for repository use and the maximum each holding approximately 10 MT of waste. There is general achievable areal loading. The draft Environmental Impact agreement and approval by the USNRC that such a scheme Statement identified 4,200 acres that possess four charac- would provide safe, secure storage for at least 100 years. teristics required for use as repository space: 200 meters of As noted earlier, one goal of the GNEP program is to overburden, consistency of elevation and dip with the up- reduce the burden on the repository by reducing the volume per block, distance from the saturated zone, and favorable of waste it must handle. Given the uncertainties discussed excavation characteristics (CRWMS, 1999). At the current above, however, it is difficult to judge precisely when the design loading of 60 MT per acre, 4,200 acres would be technical need for additional repository capacity will arise. large enough to store 252,000 MT of spent fuel. Larger areal Therefore, the committee concludes that the need for an loading might be possible for fuel with greater burn-up (the accelerated program to deploy commercial-scale reprocess- extent depending on radiation dose calculations), a trend ing and fast reactors to reduce the nuclear waste repository already under way in the nuclear industry. A study by EPRI burden has not been established. In particular, the near-term likewise suggested that with revised repository design, areal need for deployment of advanced fuel cycle infrastructure to loading could increase by a factor of 2 or 3 (Kessler, 2006), avoid a second repository is far from clear. although the study did not take into account limits imposed But even if a second repository were to be required in by geologic considerations. the near term, the committee does not believe that GNEP Areal loading could increase much more if advanced fuel would provide short-term answers. As the later discussion cycle technology, such as that envisioned by GNEP, is used. will show, however, the committee considers the DOE- According to Wigeland and others (2006) the repository’s preferred option—the GNEP program—also to be a very capacity could be increased by reducing the amounts of long-term effort, measured in decades, and very expensive, short-lived cesium (Cs) and strontium (Sr) fission products measured in tens of billions of dollars (or more). Its approval as well as by lowering the amount of transuranics (TRUs) and survival will depend heavily on its broad technical and (Pu, Np, Am, and Cm) in the wastes reaching the reposi- societal support, steady and continued funding, and effective tory. For example, the repository’s areal capacity could be management. GNEP will need positive actions from several increased by a factor of 4.4 if the fractions of Pu, Np, Am, successive presidential administrations and Congresses. With and Cm in the waste were decreased to 10 percent of their respect to management, GNEP needs a partnership and a original values and by a factor of 10 if the fractions of Cs and business plan agreed on by industry, DOE, and participating Sr were also decreased 10-fold. Decay heat from Cs and Sr foreign countries. To sustain such support, there needs to be can be reduced 10-fold by a combination of interim storage more clear evidence that GNEP is preferable to the other and repository ventilation for 100 years; with approximately options for expanding deep geologic disposal capabilities. 300 years of storage, radiation levels drop sufficiently that disposal as low-level waste might be possible. It must be GNeP Technology noted that removing Cs and Sr brings up a new siting issue: where and how to store such wastes for several decades to In the committee’s view, the GNEP concept rests on a set hundreds of years. of technologies that present very challenging development Considerations other than areal loading may dominate and engineering issues. Moreover, it is not clear that all of the Yucca Mountain decision, however. Detailed charac- the relevant options had been evaluated before arriving at the terization would be required to determine what fraction of program’s preferred choices. Below, the committee discusses its space also meets other geological constraints (including these issues, which relate to recycling methods, advanced spacing from fault and fracture zones) required for repository fuel development, and fast neutron reactors. use. The USNRC must also consider other criteria, includ- ing public health and safety, in deciding whether to grant a Recycling Methods license for the Yucca Mountain repository. It is difficult to predict when, if ever, any of these options for the use of Yucca DOE is currently examining two methods for recycling Mountain might become reality. Significant uncertainty nuclear fuel that do not isolate plutonium: UREX+ (in effect, surrounds the maximum technical capacity of the Yucca a collection of methods) and pyroprocessing. The various Mountain site. Geologic studies may limit this capacity separation steps of the UREX+la process were demonstrated significantly. These and other issues will be considered by at Argonne National Laboratory and reportedly achieved the USNRC at an uncertain date in the future, and it may or better than 99.999 percent extraction efficiency for U. This may not ever grant a license for the repository. If it does, the test used irradiated fuel from the Cooper nuclear station

OCR for page 47
 THE ADVANCED FUEL CYCLE INITIATIVE AND GLObAL NUCLEAR ENERGY PARTNERSHIP PROGRAMS power plant in Nebraska. The committee understands that both provide an excellent accounting of how difficult TRU a full, integrated project using all the steps has not yet been fuel development will be. Goldner pointed out that for oxide carried out. A preconceptual design for an AFCF has been fuels, the effect of group TRU on the fabrication process is completed. In addition, the AFCI has been developing pyro- unknown, as is the effect of lanthanides, and a large-scale chemical (or pyroprocessing) methods for the treatment of fabrication amenable to hot-cell operations must be devel- both legacy LWRs and future advanced reactor fuels. While oped. For metal fuel, he noted that large-scale fabrication the UREX+ processes work with oxide fuels, pyroprocessing without loss of Am must be demonstrated, that fuel-clad deals with metallic fuels or oxide fuels, with an additional interactions at high burn-up must be investigated, and that the processing step to reduce the oxide to metal. With oxides, effect of lanthanides on fuel cladding chemical interactions “the pyrochemical reduction (PYROX) process is being must be addressed. developed for treatment of Generation IV oxide fuels. High- These technical challenges are compounded by the need capacity reduction experiments and improvements in cell to repeatedly refabricate the fuel. Although GNEP docu- design have been completed.” (DOE, 2006c, p. 39) ments do not specify the number of expected fuel recycles, Significant technical problems remain to be solved before other sources illustrate the scope of the issue. For example, either process can be considered to have been successfully one report (OECD, 2002, p. 41) says that an demonstrated. One of GNEP’s most important goals is show- actinide (or TRU) burner requires a fuel cycle which allows ing that TRUs can be consumed, a satisfactory alternative to the fuel to be recycled many times. . . . For a maximum burn- requiring a means to store them. Special attention must be up of 25% and recycle intervals of 6 years, it takes 96 years given to the radiation level of recycled fast reactor fuel and . . . to achieve a hundred fold waste mass reduction. the constraints it will impose during shipment and handling On page 21 of the same report, it is noted that by plant operators. As noted elsewhere, however, it is very unclear whether UREX+ will be able to deal with the high [because] transmutation systems involve unusual fuels with decay heat of fast reactor fuel. Pyroprocessing may better high decay heat and neutron emission . . . a significant effort is required to demonstrate the manufacturability, burn-up satisfy those needs because it is more suited for remote behavior, and ability of reprocessing of these fuels. In order handling and it can be carried out in much smaller facilities, to reprocess via pyrochemical methods they would have to which could be co-located with fast reactors. It might be best tolerate from ten to more than twenty times higher decay heat to accelerate the development of pyroprocessing so that it can than those encountered in the pyrochemical reprocessing of deal with both water reactor and fast reactor spent fuel. fast reactor fuels. Beyond these two processes, however, an OECD report (OECD, 2006, p. 11) explains that “given the wide range In their presentations to the committee, DOE personnel and flexibility of advanced fuel cycles under development confirm that no TRU fuel fabrication has been achieved with . . . strategic choices will be based on the priorities of policy prototypic materials obtained from actual separation pro- makers which reflect continuing specific criteria such as cesses and using prototypic fabrication processes suitable for characteristics of available waste repositories, access to remote operations. DOE reports that it has fabricated mixed uranium resources, size of the nuclear power program, and actinide fuel successfully and that test fuel pins have been social and economic considerations.” The committee has manufactured to permit placement in test reactors. In-reac- seen no evidence that GNEP has explored those options. tor testing is in progress at the Phenix fast reactor in France. Indeed, potential GNEP partners are considering other fuel LWR mixed-oxide fuel pellets containing Np and Pu have cycles; these cycles need to be assessed for various projected been irradiated in the advanced test reactor (ATR). DOE has scenarios of growth in nuclear power production. If the G in fabricated and tested inert mixed fuels using magnesium GNEP is to be taken seriously, the selection of technologies and zirconium oxides, MgO-ZrO2, as well as microdisper- sion pellets of MgO-ZrO2-PuO2.3 DOE is also working on and their allocation among the partners must surely be the result of common agreement. advanced fuels: tristructural isotropic (TRISO), a multilayer micropellet form, for gas-cooled reactors; nitride; sphere- pac; and dispersion fuels. DOE fabricated a variety of test Advanced Fuels Development samples of candidate matrix materials and shipped them to TRU fuels are central and problematic in GNEP technol- the Phenix reactor for irradiation. ogy because “no [reactor] concept can be considered seri- For these reasons, the committee regards the development ously if the appropriate fuels are not defined and proven, and qualification of advanced reactor fuels as a major techni- i.e., characterized, fabricated, irradiated, and reprocessed” cal challenge. Because of the time required to test the fuel (OECD, 2002, p. 298). A presentation by Frank Goldner2 and a report by the Nuclear Energy Agency (OECD, 2002) 3 Three members of the committee feel very strongly that the thermal recycling of inert matrix fuel should have priority over GNEP multirecycling in sodium fast reactors; their rationale is summarized in Appendix B. The 2 Frank Goldner, DOE, “GNEP transmutation fuel development,” Presen- other committee members believe the concept deserves consideration but tation to the 2007 Regulatory Information Conference on March 15, 2007. are not willing to sponsor it because it may be premature.

OCR for page 47
 REVIEW OF DOE’S NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM through repeated refabrication cycles, achieving a qualified the kind of open problems that the GNEP program faces. fuel will take many years. Thermal reactor recycle options have lower risk in their reactor technologies but still face substantial transmutation fuel development issues. Fast-Neutron Reactors The capital costs of sodium-cooled fast reactors have been For its GNEP program, DOE has selected for first con- estimated to be 10 to 50 percent greater than those for LWRs sideration the sodium-cooled fast reactor (SFR). Other re- (Bunn et al., 2003). Fast reactors have never been deployed actor concepts identified by the Generation IV Technology on a commercial scale in the United States, and research Roadmap (Chapter 3) and possible GNEP candidates are has been funded at a low level for a decade or more. This (1) the lead-cooled fast reactor (LFR), which would also of course must be seen in light of the complicated (and dis- encompass reactors using alloys of lead with other elements; couraging) history of MONJU and Superphenix, discussed (2) the gas-cooled fast reactor (GFR); (3) the supercritical previously. Very little is said in published GNEP documents water-cooled reactor (SCWR); (4) the very-high-temperature about the status of safeguards and security, management, and reactor (VHTR); and (5) the molten salt reactor (MSR). In resources. The diffuseness of what brief discussions there are its analysis, DOE notes that the SFR and VHTR are the most implies that much work lies ahead. The overall portrayal of extensively studied reactors. Because the SFR can perform the state of development of fast reactors, even of the some- transmutation effectively and is relatively mature, the GNEP what-more-studied SFRs, suggests that the judicious course plan has proposed it as the baseline case and presumably the of action now would be to study and develop the prototype first fast reactor to be built for the overall GNEP program. designs, at most at the engineering scale and presumably SFRs have some important characteristics that make with as many options as possible for reactor types and them attractive for development and deployment, including designs kept open at this stage. This suggested direction is flexibility with respect to mission (e.g., electricity produc- inconsistent with the GNEP Strategic Plan (DOE, 2007). tion, breeding of fissile material, or transmutation), high The Generation IV program developed criteria for evalu- efficiency, and some safety advantages over LWRs, even as ating reactor technologies (Table 3-1), but to the committee’s they have their own vulnerabilities. Of course reactor safety knowledge, these evaluation criteria were not applied in se- is a complex issue, and other safety advantages belong to lecting the SFR. The lack of analogous selection criteria for LWRs. The choice of the SFR over other fast reactor options GNEP represents an important program deficiency because it and thermal recycle options (inert matrix fuels for LWRs and means the program lacks a basis for choosing among technol- deep-burn fuels for VHTRs) should be considered in light ogy options. of the history of SFRs. There is indeed a several-decade- long history of experience with these reactors dating to the GNeP Program design and scheduling experimental breeder reactor (EBR I), although fewer than 20 have supplied electricity. Accidents involving sodium The GNEP program emphasizes accelerated schedules. can be serious, even disastrous, and there have been notable Specifically, the Strategic Plan proposes to proceed to build accidents with sodium-cooled reactors. A year after the commercial-scale facilities and “to define a technology MONJU reactor went on line in 1994 in Japan, it suffered a roadmap . . . that obviates the need to build engineering scale sodium leak and has remained closed ever since. The French facilities” (DOE, 2007, p. 7-10). The reasoning behind the Superphenix, a 1,200-MWe fast sodium reactor, the largest accelerated schedule was not clear from the material avail- ever built, had many sodium leaks; it was closed for 2 years able to the committee. Indeed, several factors militate against in the 1990s and finally shut down altogether in 1998. This a schedule-driven program design. plant operated at full capacity for only 174 days. There is no Most important is the long-term nature of GNEP and the definite announced date for its restart. The outlook for the so- current state of knowledge about its component parts. For dium-cooled fast reactor Fast Flux Test Facility in Hanford, example, the CFTC is expected to be very large—2,000 to Washington, and the integral fast reactor (IFR) at Idaho Falls 3,000 MT/yr of spent fuel—larger even than the brand-new is much better. In particular, the IFR demonstrated very high Japanese reprocessing facility in Rokkashomora, an 800- metallic fuel burn-up, is inherently safe, and introduced the MT/yr facility. The Strategic Plan indicates that the first con- important step of electrorefining to pyroprocessing (Han- struction would be at this large commercial scale, skipping num, 1997). the engineering-scale facility step. However, the Mission Other fast reactors have their own vulnerabilities. Lead- Need Statement suggests that the demonstration objectives cooled reactors have been used to power Russian submarines, for the transmutation fuels and separation technologies will but lead-cooled reactors, especially those using lead-bismuth require an engineering-scale facility. Moreover, other con- alloy because of its very low melting point, have suffered siderations—technology readiness, fuel cycle plant costs, from corrosion. Whether some other noncorrosive alloy waste volume and radiotoxicity, vulnerability to diversion could be developed is a particularly interesting challenge for or theft, and degree of support by industry, Congress, the research in nuclear science and engineering and illustrates U.S. public, and other nations—are at least as important as

OCR for page 47
 THE ADVANCED FUEL CYCLE INITIATIVE AND GLObAL NUCLEAR ENERGY PARTNERSHIP PROGRAMS schedule. They should be assessed and, wherever possible, 5. The timing issue between CFTC and ABTR can be quantified. If the proposed commitment to UREX+ at a com- resolved by sizing the engineering separation facilities at mercial scale turns out to be the course taken by GNEP, then AFCF so that they can handle the needs of ABTR. its technology roadmap and business plan (called for in the 6. The handling, storage, and packaging of fission prod- Strategic Plan) would have to make clear how a facility at ucts will be a much smaller effort for engineering facilities, that scale, designed for production with one technology, can and the resolution of any remaining problems will not be as also serve as a modular test bed for other commercial-scale difficult at a slower production rate. separation technologies. 7. The time by which commercial-scale reprocessing will The second issue is whether commercial fast reactors be needed depends on variables that cannot now be predicted would be available to consume the TRUs separated from with any reasonable accuracy. In particular, the actual future the spent fuel of LWRs. That is very doubtful, because with deployment rate of nuclear reactors and the actual capacity present procedures, it will take a very long time to have fast of the repository would be key variables. Engineering-scale reactors licensed, operating competitively, and accepted facilities allow sufficient time to pass to reduce some of the commercially as power producers. To make the GNEP closed uncertainties. fuel cycle a reality, fast reactors would have to account for a significant fraction of new construction in the coming The committee concludes that the case presented by the decades, a scenario the committee views as completely promoters of GNEP for an accelerated schedule for com- implausible. These timing, cost, and deployment rate issues mercial construction is unwise. In general, it believes that need to be addressed. the schedule should be guided by technical progress in the Third, the Strategic Plan does not discuss whether the R&D program. If and when technical progress justifies demonstration facilities are to be reviewed and approved by construction of a major facility, it is the very strong view the USNRC, although this is implied in the request for EOIs. of this committee that an engineering-scale facility would A position on this issue, reviewed by the USNRC, would be be by far the safest, most effective, least risky course. And, needed before any decisions can be made about GNEP at the as discussed in Chapter 6, the committee believes that DOE Secretarial level. should commit to the construction of a major demonstration DOE claims that GNEP is being implemented to save or facility only when there is a clear economic, national the United States nearly a decade in time and a substantial security, or environmental policy reason for doing so. amount of money. In view of the technical challenges in- volved, the committee believes that the opposite will likely costs be true. For example, going ahead with smaller engineering facilities such as a 100- to 200-MT/yr separation facility DOE has not yet completed a cost analysis of the alter- and a 50- to 100-MWe advanced burner test reactor (ABTR) native pathways of research, development, and deployment could save time and money in the long run, for a number of (RD&D) that could be pursued to achieve the goals of GNEP. reasons: Documents reviewed by the committee indicate that the only costs that have been estimated so far are those for a single 1. The engineering facilities might not require USNRC path and a single scale, with no allowance for contingen- licensing and public hearings. This could save about 3 years cies or uncertainties. While there are large uncertainties in for the CFTC and 3-5 years for the ABTR because the any such effort, it appears to the committee that the costs commercial fast reactor is anticipated to run into increased of alternative pathways must be projected to enable regular opposition. updating and revision as more is learned and to evolve an 2. The engineering facilities construction schedule could RD&D strategy and the tactics for carrying it out. At what be shortened by 1 or 2 years because they are smaller. stage, for example, do the next-phase costs justify a deci- 3. The engineering facilities could cost only about one sion to continue or to drop work on a process that has just tenth as much as the full-scale facilities, and the possibility of emerged, apparently successful as gauged by scientific cri- structuring an acceptable government–industry partnership teria, from the first laboratory level? Even at the outset, the could be enhanced considerably owing to the smaller cash full complement of alternative methods should be examined flow. for several projected scenarios of growth in nuclear power 4. Engineering facilities can be modified much faster and production. The amounts of spent fuel, uranium needs, and much more cheaply than large-scale facilities. Also, they the shipments of spent fuel or high-level waste to repositories would be more appropriate for evaluating other recycling op- should be determined as well as their volumes, radiotoxicity, tions, while large facilities would have to be more dedicated and vulnerability to diversion or theft. Costs, benefits, and to production. Separation of spent fuel from LWRs, with cash flow, including the fees that would be charged to nuclear appropriate treatment and storage of fission products and electricity consumers, should be estimated as a function of high-level wastes as well as recycling of fast reactor fuel, the dates for initial deployment of commercial fast reactors, can be demonstrated much sooner. their capital costs, and their growth rate. The GNEP Strategic

OCR for page 47
 REVIEW OF DOE’S NUCLEAR ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM Plan implies that these analyses will be part of a business the proposed GNEP plan names UREX+1A as the most fa- plan to be provided to the Secretary of Energy in June 2008. vored and presumably first method it wishes to pursue, other The committee does not find it credible that such analyses, nations appear to favor other methods with which they have with uncertainties, can be accomplished by that time. Even more experience. If GNEP is to really be an international implementing an effort to develop such a plan, which would collaboration, it is crucial that all the participating nations imply that a credible decision can be made by June 2008, is share the knowledge and experience each accumulates as a matter of concern to the committee. new technologies evolve. Furthermore, it seems likely that the GNEP fuel cycle will be more costly to operate than some other options. GNEP FiNdiNGs aNd recommeNdaTioNs objectives are satisfied only with transitional or sustained recycles that require partial or full participation by fast The committee concludes that the rationale for the GNEP reactors. Fast reactors complicate the selection of advanced program, as expressed through the stated goals, objectives, fuel cycles since their estimated capital costs are currently and criteria, has been unpersuasive. The program is premised expected to be 10-50 percent higher than those of LWRs, on an accelerated deployment strategy that will create signifi- according to a Harvard study (Bunn et al., 2003, p. 68). cant technical and financial risks by prematurely narrowing Similarly, a preliminary predecisional economic evaluation the technical options. Moreover, there has been insufficient (Crozat, 2007, p. 8) shows that the cost of nuclear electricity external input, including independent, thorough peer review for an SFR would be $71/MWh compared to $56/MWh for of GNEP. an LWR. If that difference is reasonably accurate, producers In light of the foregoing, the committee finds as follows: of nuclear electricity will balk at adopting fast reactors or Finding 4-1. Domestic waste management, security, and fuel subsidizing them through an increase in the Nuclear Waste Fund fee, which is only $1/MWh, for thermal reactors. supply needs are not adequate to justify early deployment Finally, a thorough economic analysis should consider of commercial-scale reprocessing and fast reactor facilities. several questions not apparent in the work made available to Finding 4-2. The state of knowledge surrounding the tech- the committee. For example, closed fuel cycle cost analyses seem to have been carried out without considering temporal nologies required for achieving the goals of GNEP is still at coordination of the components of GNEP. DOE apparently an early stage, at best a stage where one can justify begin- fails to recognize the crucial importance of the timing of the ning to work at an engineering scale. However it seems to required separation and fast reactor facilities as well as of the committee that DOE has given more weight to schedule the time required to develop qualified fuel and its recycling than to conservative economics and technology. To carry out in fast reactors. For a number of reasons, fuel cycle costs or even initiate efforts on a scale larger than the engineer- would rise if the separation facilities are ready but the fast ing scale in the next decade would be inconsistent with safe reactor requires many more years to be deployed. One reason economic and technical practice. is that the TRUs separated from spent fuel would have to be Finding 4-3. The cost of the GNEP program is acknowl- stored in the interim. Moreover, the GNEP program would suffer long delays from time spent qualifying new fuels with edged by DOE not to be commercially competitive under each successive recycle. The committee is concerned that the present circumstances. There is no economic justification plan to move rapidly to recycling and fast reactors has no for proceeding with this program at anything approaching economic basis. commercial scale. Continued research and development are the appropriate level of activity, given the current state of knowledge. international aspects Finding 4-4. Several fuel cycles could potentially form the One international aspect of the GNEP plan falls within the purview of this study. Because the United States has far basis for a recycling system. However none of the cycles less experience with fast reactors and recycling than other proposed, including UREX+ and the sodium fast reactor, is nations that are potential partners in the program, it is very sufficiently reliable and well understood to justify commer- important to make the program a truly cooperative one, to cial-scale construction at this time. allow American scientists and engineers to learn from the Finding 4-5. The qualification of multiply-recycled trans- previous work of their counterparts, and to shape the re- search and engineering program to be as efficient a win-win uranic fuel is far from reaching a stage of demonstrated program as possible for all the participating nations. For this reliability. reason it would be very desirable as GNEP goes forward to enhance the international collaboration that was initiated In short, all committee members agree that the GNEP with the Generation IV Technology Roadmap. One example program should not go forward as is and that it should be is the area of waste separation and fuel preparation. While replaced by a less aggressive research program. Nonetheless,

OCR for page 47
 THE ADVANCED FUEL CYCLE INITIATIVE AND GLObAL NUCLEAR ENERGY PARTNERSHIP PROGRAMS Recommendation 4-5. DOE should defer the Secretarial the committee believes that a research program similar to the original AFCI is worth pursuing,4 for three reasons: to extend decision, now scheduled for 2008, which the committee be- uranium resources (when and if this need arises), to greatly lieves is not credible. Moreover, if it makes this decision in reduce the long-lived, high-level actinides in nuclear waste, the future, DOE should target construction of new technolo- and to improve the waste forms for disposal of high-level gies at most at an engineering scale. DOE should commis- nuclear waste. It may be that the international aspects of sion an independent peer review of the state of knowledge as GNEP will provide technical benefits to all the participants, a prerequisite to any Secretarial decision on future research and there may even be some benefit in regard to inhibiting programs. proliferation and improving physical protection as well. Such a program should be paced by national needs, taking into ac- In summary, the committee concludes that without first count economics, technological readiness, national security, demonstrating relevant technologies at an engineering scale, energy security, and other considerations. The committee there are unacceptably high financial and technical risks to envisions such a program in the following way: commercial-scale construction of a separations facility and a fast burner reactor. Recommendation 4-1. DOE should develop and publish detailed technical and economic analyses to explain and reFereNces describe UREX+1a and fast reactor recycle as well as a Bunn, M., S. Fetter, J.P. Holdren, and B. van der Zwaan. 2003. The Econom- range of alternatives. An independent peer review group, as ics of Reprocessing vs. Direct Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel. Harvard recommended in Chapter 6, should review these analyses. University. December. DOE should pursue the development of other separation Crozat, M.P. 2007. Evaluating the Economics of GNEP Deployment. Janu- processes until a fully fact-based comparison can be made ary 8. Distributed to the committee by DOE. and a decision taken on which process or processes could be Civilian Radioactive Waste Management System (CRWMS). 1999. Engineering File—Subsurface Repository. BCA000000-01717-5705- carried to engineering scale. 00005 REV 02 DCN 01. Las Vegas, Nev.: CRWMS Management and Operating Contractor (M&O). ACC: MOL.19990621.0157; Recommendation 4-2. DOE should devote more effort to MOL.19990615.0230. the qualification of recycled fuel, as it poses a major technical Department of Energy (DOE). 2005. AFCI, Comparison Report, FY 2005. challenge. A fast neutron test facility is needed for fast-spec- May. DOE. 2006a. Report to Congress, Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative: Status trum fuel qualification; the committee recommends carrying Report for FY 2005. February. this out using existing facilities in collaboration with inter- DOE. 2006b. Mission Need Statement for GNEP Technology Demonstra- national partners. Parallel development of nonfertile LWR tion Projects. March. fuel and deep-burn TRISO fuel should be pursued to reduce DOE. 2006c. AFCI, Comparison Report, FY 2006 Update. July. program risk. DOE. 2006d. GNEP Implementation Strategy. November. DOE. 2007. Global Nuclear Energy Partnership Strategic Plan. GNEP- 167312. January. Recommendation 4-3. DOE should compare the technical Hannum, W.H., ed. 1997. Special Issue of Progress in Nuclear Energy 31 and financial risks with the potential benefits. Such an analy- (1). sis should undergo an independent, intensive peer review, as International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). 1980. International Nuclear recommended in Chapter 6. Moreover, DOE should identify Fuel Cycle Evaluation. Kessler, J. 2006. Program on Technology Innovation: Room at the Mountain, program benchmarks and report regularly on its attempts to Analysis of the Maximum Disposal Capacity for Commercial Spent meet them. Nuclear Fuel in a Yucca Mountain Repository. Electric Power Research Institute Report 1013523. May. Recommendation 4-4. DOE should bring together other National Research Council (NRC). 1957. The Disposal of Radioactive appropriate divisions of DOE and other appropriate federal Waste on Land, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), agencies, representatives from industry, and representatives Nuclear Energy Agency. 2002. Accelerator-Driven Systems (ADS) and from other nations well before any decisions are made on the Fast Reactors (FR) in Advanced Nuclear Fuel Cycle. technology, in order to create and exploit shared perceptions OECD, Nuclear Energy Agency. 2006. Advanced Nuclear Fuel Cycles and of the roles of the participants, of the states of the various Radioactive Waste Management, NEA 5990. technologies, and of the commitments and schedules of each Wigeland, R.A., T.H. Bauer, T.H. Fanning, and E.E. Morris. 2006. Separa- tions and transmutation criteria to improve utilization of a geological of those participants. A research, development, and deploy- repository, Nuclear Technology 154 (April): 95-106. ment program can succeed only if all of those participants World Nuclear News (WNN). July 3, 2007. see themselves as its co-owners and creators. 4 Thedissenting view of two members of the committee is presented in Appendix A.