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DOE Wants to Hear from You About Spent Nuclear Fuel

Dan Yurman's picture
Editor & Publisher NeutronBytes, a blog about nuclear energy

Publisher of NeutronBytes, a blog about nuclear energy online since 2007.  Consultant and project manager for technology innovation processes and new product / program development for commercial...

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  • Dec 4, 2021
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  • DOE Wants to Hear from You about Spent Nuclear Fuel
  • NRC ‘indicates acceptance’ of Kairos Safety Evaluation
  • Terrestrial Energy Signs Agreement for the Supply of Steam Turbines for IMSR

DOE Wants to Hear from You about Spent Nuclear Fuel

  • Community and stakeholder feedback will help determine next steps for consent-based siting process to identify interim storage locations for the nation’s spent nuclear fuel.

consent based sitingThe U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) this week issued a request for information on a consent-based siting process that would be used to identify sites to store the nation’s spent nuclear fuel. The information will be used to develop DOE’s consent-based siting process and overall waste management strategy.

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Nuclear energy is essential to achieving the Administration’s goals to create a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and net zero emissions economy by 2050. Managing waste not only makes nuclear a more sustainable option but also helps fulfill DOE’s obligation to manage the nation’s spent nuclear fuel.

“Hearing from and then working with communities interested in hosting one of these facilities is the best way to finally solve the nation’s spent nuclear fuel management issues,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.

“We know there are real benefits from jobs to new infrastructure that will result in interest in areas across the country. The public’s input is central to identifying those locations to make this process as inclusive and effective as possible.”

“I’m extremely excited about restarting the consent-based siting process,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Dr. Kathryn Huff who made the announcement at the Winter Meeting of the American Nuclear Society being held in Washington, DC.

“DOE is committed to responsibly managing the nation’s spent nuclear fuel and willing communities have the right to explore the benefits and conditions they need to host a federal interim storage facility.”

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 passed by Congress provides funding and directs DOE to move forward with interim storage to support near-term action in managing the nation’s spent nuclear fuel and is an important component of an integrated waste management system.

DOE is committed to the consent-based siting approach that makes communities and people central in the process to give the nation its best chance at success in solving the nation’s decades-long stalemate over how to effectively manage our spent nuclear fuel.

What is Consent Based Siting?

Consent-based siting is an approach to siting facilities that focuses on the needs and concerns of people and communities. Communities participate in the siting process by working carefully through a series of phases and steps with the Department (as the implementing organization).

Each step and phase helps a community determine whether and how hosting a facility to manage spent nuclear fuel is aligned to the community’s goals. By its nature, a consent-based siting process must be flexible, adaptive, and responsive to community concerns. Thus, the phases and steps are intended to serve as a guide, not a prescriptive set of instructions.

Working through the consent-based siting process collaboratively builds a mutual trust relationship between DOE and a potential host community. Potential outcomes from the consent-based siting process could include either a negotiated consent agreement or a determination that after exploring the option in good faith, the community is not, in fact, interested in serving as a host. Both are successful outcomes.

Responses to DOE’s public information request on identifying a federal interim storage facility using a consent-based siting process can be submitted electronically to consentbasedsiting@hq.doe.gov. All responses must be received by 5:00 p.m. (ET) on March 4, 2022.

DOE especially encourages feedback from people, communities, and groups that historically have not been represented in these discussions. More information on DOE’s request for information can be found at energy.gov/consentbasedsiting and found here in the Federal Register.

Status of Current Interim Storage Projects

The US already has two proposed interim storage sites for spent nuclear fuel engaged in the NRC licensing process. They are one site in Andrews, TX, being developed by Interim Storage Partners, and another site in Hobbs, NM, being developed by Holtec.

Interim Storage Partners (ISP) is a joint venture between Waste Control Specialists (WCS) and Orano USA to develop the consolidated interim storage facility at a WCS site that currently accepts low level radioactive waste.

Interim Storage Partners on 09/14/21 announced that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued its license for a proposed commercial consolidated interim storage facility (CISF). The proposed facility would be located adjacent to Waste Control Specialists’ existing low-level nuclear materials disposal facility in Andrews County, Texas.

Interim Storage Partners, a joint venture of Orano USA and Waste Control Specialists, with additional support from technology provider NAC International, submitted a revised CISF license application to the NRC on June 8, 2018.

The NRC’s issuance of ISP’s CISF license provides federal authorization under the Atomic Energy Act to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for used nuclear fuel.

This authorization is based upon the multi-year and thorough review and validation of the various scientific, engineering, environmental, safety, and economic assumptions, designs and plans set forth in the application.

The extensive analyses concluded that this facility’s commercial interim storage and transport operations satisfy all environmental, health, and safety requirements without negative impact to nearby residents or existing industries.

The NRC SNM-2125 documents for ISP’s CISF license can be found at: https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML2118/ML21188A096.html

Holtec Intl applied to the NRC in 2017 for a license to build a proposed commercial consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) in Hobbs, NM.  The license has not yet been issued pending completion of the firm’s responses to requests for additional information about the application.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reported to have said this week it will delay the publication of a final environmental impact statement and safety evaluation report for Holtec International’s proposed high-level nuclear waste storage facility in southeast New Mexico, after receiving unsatisfactory responses to a number of questions.

The NRC will issue a third request for additional information (RAI) and publish a new timetable for completing the analyses after Holtec provides a revised schedule for submitting the answers.  The latest submission from Holtec listed on the NRC website is dated August 31, 2021 responding to a second round RAI which was sent to the firm by the NRC on May 20, 2021.

In response to an inquiry from Neutron Bytes, Joe Delmar, Senior Director, Gov’t Affairs & Communications, Holtec International, said:

“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensing process is rigorous, thorough and transparent to ensure the protection of public health and safety and the protection of the environment.

Holtec will provide the additional information requested by the NRC that will confirm the large margins of safety that are inherent in the design of the HI-STORM UMAX system and the HI-STORE consolidated interim storage facility (CISF).

Holtec remains committed to completing the NRC’s licensing process for HI-STORE CISF and remains equally committed to providing the country a safe, secure, retrievable and centralized facility for storing spent nuclear fuel on an interim basis. Once licensed, HI-STORE could be operational as soon as 2024. Working closely with our partner the Eddy Lea Energy Alliance, the project continues to have strong local support.”

& & &

NRC ‘indicates acceptance’ of Kairos Safety Evaluation

(WNA) The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued a draft safety evaluation report indicating its initial acceptance of Kairos Power’s source term methodology for its Kairos Power fluoride salt-cooled high temperature reactor (KP-FHR). The topical report, which Kairos submitted to the regulator in June 2020, is the first of its kind to be reviewed by the NRC.

The report, which outlines the company’s approach to calculating the amount of radioactive material that could be released to the environment during an accident, was developed through a cost-shared award from the US Department of Energy (DOE).

If approved, a final safety evaluation report could be issued by February 2022 and could be used throughout the licensing process, reducing risks associated with the licensing and deployment of the reactor.

The KP-HFR uses TRISO – TRI-structural ISOtropic – fuel, first developed by DOE in the 1960s. Research by Idaho National Laboratory has indicated that the source term for TRISO-based fuel is significantly less than for traditional fuels, DOE said, adding that this “further reinforces the enhanced safety and operation of Kairos’s reactor design as it continues with the pre-licensing phase of the NRC process”.

“This accomplishment strengthens our team’s extensive pre-application engagement with the NRC and builds licensing certainty for our advanced reactor technology,” Kairos Power CEO Mike Laufer said. “In combination with our iterative hardware demonstrations, our licensing engagement contributes to the cost certainty that will be necessary for commercial demonstration and deployment.”

Kairos filed the first portion of an application for a construction permit on 09/29/21 to build the 35 MWe Hermes molten salt test reactor at a site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

& & &

Terrestrial Energy Signs Agreement for the Supply of Steam Turbines for IMSR Nuclear Power Plant

Terrestrial Energy and Siemens Energy Canada have signed a contract for the manufacturing and supply of steam turbines and other balance-of-plant equipment, such as transformers, switchgear, and motor drive systems, for the Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR), a Generation IV nuclear power plant.

The IMSR generates steam for power generation at standard utility class temperature and pressure, and from systems that are isolated from its nuclear reactor. This not only drives a transformative 50 per cent improvement in the economics of nuclear power generation, but it also simplifies engineering challenges by enabling procurement of standard utility steam turbines.

In turn, this facilitates design readiness and early power plant deployment schedules. This approach eliminates the complex, costly and lengthy development schedules of highly customized turbines required by non-Generation IV reactor technologies for power generation such as BWR technology, all of which are use low temperature and non-standard industry steam supply.

Siemens Energy is a global leader in the supply of utility steam turbines to the electric power sector with a fleet of more than 60,000 steam turbines operating worldwide.

“Partnering with Siemens Energy to supply these key power plant components underscores the readiness of our Generation IV power plant design and its superior economics over SMR power plant designs that use Generation III reactor technologies,” said Simon Irish, CEO of Terrestrial Energy.

“Its superior thermal efficiency and economics will be key to SMR success in a completive global market seeking a clean energy alternative to fossil fuels.”

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