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11 Comments of Particular Interest During the Workshop Discussions Glenn E. Schweitzer The National Academies The questions and discussions during the workshop clearly indicated that the workshop achieved its primary objective of helping to clarify for specialists interested in the disposition of spent nuclear fuel many of the legal, regulatory, technical, and financial aspects of developing and operating international facili- ties for storing spent nuclear fuel. A number of the issues that were raised had been considered at previous meetings of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and in Europe, Asia, and the United States. All of the issues will undoubt- edly be considered again in the future as many countries seek solutions to the problems associated with the disposition of spent nuclear fuel—including interim storage, recycling, and permanent disposal. This workshop has made a unique and timely contribution to international deliberations by focusing sharply on the Russian experience within the context of more general considerations and relevant ongoing activities in a number of countries. It is important to consider generic issues as has been done before, par- ticularly by the IAEA, but discussions of the specific steps taken by Russia and of the impediments in moving forward to transform its commitment to establishing a facility into reality were very informative. Details are important, and many details can best be considered when specific proposals are on the table. THE RUSSIAN EXPERIENCE Russian legislation authorizes the importation and storage of spent nuclear fuel. But it does not permit the importation of waste, and Russia distinguishes sharply between spent fuel that has intrinsic value and waste that has no recover- able value. It authorizes the reprocessing of imported spent fuel. If the original 83
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84 SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL STORAGE FACILITIES fuel was manufactured in Russia or the former Soviet Union, the wastes associ- ated with reprocessing may be retained in Russia. If the original fuel was manu- factured elsewhere, the waste cannot be retained in Russia. Of course, in time the legislation could be modified, but at present the focus is on interim storage and that was the theme of this workshop. Russian specialists have in mind another scenario for the future in addition to (a) import, store, and return to the sender and (b) import and reprocess either for use in Russia or return to the sender. That option is to use breeder reactors, which reduce the cleanup requirements. Russian specialists claim they have the technol- ogy in hand to do this, but this topic should be the subject of another workshop. Russian specialists have carried out many investigations of sites that might be considered for an interim storage facility. Much of the attention has been directed toward uranium mining areas at Krasnokamensk and to areas where Rus- sian spent fuel is already stored at Krasnoyarsk. The investigations have included consideration of the general characteristics of the locations, including earthquake frequency and intensity and the likelihood of flooding. Also, more detailed studies have been directed to the geological/geophysical conditions of the immediate area under consideration. Russian specialists believe that the costs of above-ground and subsurface interim storage at Krasnokamensk would be about the same, al- though they do not have authoritative data in this regard. Turning to packaging, shipping, and handling of international spent fuel, since 1994 Russia has been developing a legal structure that is consistent with requirements embodied in international law. In March 2005 Russia signed the 1963 Vienna Convention on responsibility for nuclear damage as nuclear mate- rial changes hands, and this action has alleviated many concerns in Russia and abroad about the commitment of the nation to undertake international spent fuel activities. Also, in recent years an insurance industry has emerged in Russia with a number of small companies slowly supplementing the capabilities of the one major company that in the past provided most of the insurance coverage for nuclear-related activities. Russia also has considerable technological capabilities to carry out activi- ties in compliance with these legal requirements and acceptable international practices. As to technological aspects, Russian companies have considerable experience in transporting spent fuel—internationally and within Russia. Of par- ticular importance has been the transportation of spent fuel for research reactors located in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the shipment of spent fuel from both neighboring countries and internally to Mayak and Krasnoyarsk. Russian specialists have also been actively exploring models for predicting spent fuel behavior under different storage conditions in order to assist in selecting safe conditions for dry storage.
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WORKSHOP DISCUSSION 85 ACTIVITIES IN ASIA Both Japan and Taiwan have ambitious nuclear programs and plans. They will generate considerable spent fuel. Both countries have populations concen- trated in confined geographical areas with limited available territory for spent fuel storage or disposal sites. In Japan, plans are being developed to establish an interim dry storage facil- ity by 2010. Meanwhile, a reprocessing facility is operating with plans to provide plutonium for light water reactors. A range of technical codes and standards, as well as laws and regulations, relevant to these activities are well developed. A related development is the effort of the government to encourage municipalities to consider hosting a high-level radioactive waste site. Turning to Taiwan, the government has plans for dry storage for spent fuel, which is currently stored in water at the reactor sites. The concept calls for eventually commissioning a deep geological repository by 2050. In the immedi- ate future, dry storage will be employed at NPP 1. But a multilateral spent fuel storage facility is also an attractive option. FINAL OBSERVATIONS The theme of the workshop was consolidation of spent fuel at international storage facilities. Indeed, consolidation of all types of nuclear material—inter- nationally, nationally, and at facilities—is an important approach both for safety and security. While different types of nuclear material—from highly enriched uranium no longer needed at research reactors to radioactive waste—pose dif- ferent types of threats and challenges, consolidation is an important crosscutting concept that deserves the strong support of governments and nuclear operators. In both the short and long terms, aggressive consolidation programs are important in countering both proliferation and terrorism threats. Such an approach responds directly to some of the principal observations on nuclear security made during the Putin-Bush summit in Bratislava in May 2005.