DOE Renews Search For Spent Fuel Solution

The U.S. Department of Energy on the last day of November launched a renewed effort to find a federal solution to storage of spent nuclear fuel after attempts to push Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a permanent storage repository was withdrawn by the Obama administration.

Yucca MountainDespite years of studies and billions of dollars spent, Yucca Mountain could not get past the political pushback. After years of on-again, off-again studies of the location’s feasibility, President Barack Obama said it was “not an option,” after the state’s not-in-my-backyard response proved unsurmountable.

The current DOE search is for an interim storage site, not a permanent repository.

“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 Mr. Granholm.

The DOE is stressing its policy of seeking a consensual community endorsement before settling on a site – a detail that cannot be overlooked as the potential Achilles heel in such a project. Environmental studies for such a project can take so long that community sentiment can shift midway through such and undertaking and community approval is no guarantee of state approval. “We know there are real benefits from jobs to new infrastructure that will result in interest in areas across the country,” said Granholm. “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.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 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.  

Nevertheless, small communities hungry for jobs in large states where waste storage is more likely means state residents far from the actual site will sense only liabilities without the benefit of economic gains.

And the stakes are high. Currently, there are 86,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel stored at 75 states (at nuclear power plants, some of them closed down) around the country. While the risks of local storage haunt the nation, the DOE says energy from nuclear power is vital to the country’s climate change mitigation plans.

“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,” the DOE said.

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  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    Nonsensical. Yucca Mt is and has been the only answer. Every time the reference to Yucca Mt is mentioned its like listening to the lie being repeated again and again and made into a 'fact'. This shows what the opposition is afraid of period. The present philosophy is think wok, start over, cost no money then magically lie that it is not affordable. Leave it next to the populations and protest.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    Used LWR fuel is not a problem.  Refurbish & operate the reprocessing plant Carter closed in SC, and pile the DU with our ~70,000 tons of enrichment waste in KY, OH...  Then send the remaining ~4% that's fission products to our family acreage in NJ and the US can pay  us a yearly storage fee for the needed acre.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    The endless cycle of getting money from the tax payers and rate payers and giving it to the nuclear contractor and government machine continues.  It's a crime. How many more expensive conferences and college donations will there be this time around for projects that will never start? It's a shame.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    A consent based siting process for either a repository or an interim storage facility will be very challenging. The incentives that motivate the small, remote communities that are likely hosts are very different from the incentives that function effectively at the state level. Those contrary expectations work against finding a site that is amenable to both local and state governments. I fear this will just delay implementation of a solution, and will ensure taxpayers continue to pay for the federal government's failure to begin to accepting and disposing of this waste in 1989 as contractually obligated.