Sunday, February 25, 2007
After RRW, After Pu Pits: Reprocessing Reactor in Los Alamos?
LOS ALAMOS MONITOR STAFF REPORT, Sunday, February 25, 2007
A public hearing to discuss the Department of Energy's plan to begin reprocessing the spent fuel from U.S. power reactors will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Hilltop House Best Western, 400 Trinity Drive, in the La Vista Room.
The meeting is one of three to be held in New Mexico, along with a meeting in Hobbs on Feb. 26 and in Roswell, Feb. 27. GNEP is considering 13 national sites for one or more of the proposed Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) initiatives
The plan proposes that the advanced fuel cycle research facility be located at a DOE site. Los Alamos National Laboratory is among the sites under consideration, along with the Savannah River Site, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Hanford Site. Other locations, including Hobbs and Roswell, are under consideration as a location for a nuclear fuel recycling center and/or an advanced recycling center.
As DOE describes the GNEP recycling plan, spent fuel would be received from commercial nuclear reactors and processed in a nuclear-fuel recycling center. Reprocessing separates plutonium and uranium from the other types of nuclear materials which would become waste. The reusable material would be mostly consumed in an advanced recycling reactor, and the reduced volume of non-reusable constituents would be converted to waste forms for eventual storage in a geologic repository or some other long-term storage facility.
Along with the national programmatic activities, the way the whole program fits together, and site-specific consideration about where to locate the main facilities, the environmental impact statement would examine the impact of two complementary international initiatives.
Via a "reliable fuel services program," the U.S. would cooperate with countries that have advanced nuclear programs to supply nuclear fuel services to other countries that refrain from pursuing enrichment or recycling facilities to make their own nuclear fuel. A second initiative would develop "proliferation-resistant" nuclear power reactors suitable for use in developing economies.
The Union of Concerned Scientists issued a press release today calling DOE's plan misguided and urging local citizens to attend the local scoping meetings to express their concerns.
The Bush administration is requesting a FY 2008 budget of $405 million for the GNEP program, a large fraction of which will be directed toward reprocessing the spent fuel from nuclear power reactors.
"Any community hosting a reprocessing facility will by necessity become a long-term dump for spent fuel shipped from nuclear plants around the country," said Edwin Lyman, senior staff scientist at UCS. "Even if this spent fuel is eventually reprocessed, the residual highly radioactive wastes will have to stay where they are generated unless another site can be found to take them - an unlikely prospect."
The comment period runs through April 4, 2007.
Another venue is needed, I'd say.