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FYI Number 102: June 29, 2005

Senate Appropriations Language on Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing

The approach that House and Senate appropriators have taken in their report language regarding the disposition of spent nuclear fuel from the nation's utility plants differs greatly. As previously reported, House Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman David Hobson (R-OH) and his colleagues put notably exacting language in their FY 2006 Energy and Water Development Appropriations report about the transport of spent fuel to centralized above ground interim storage locations and the development of an integrated spent fuel reprocessing plan (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/082.html.) The Senate's counterpart report, written by Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM) does not include language similar to the House report. This report language is below (to read all of report 109-084, see http://thomas.loc.gov/ under "Committee Information.")

"RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT:

"Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative- The Committee recommendation includes $85,000,000, an increase of $15,000,000 over the budget request. The initiative should continue to focus on development of fuel cycle technologies that minimize the toxicity of final waste products resulting from spent fuel while recovering energy remaining in spent fuel; minimize proliferation concerns and environmental impacts of the fuel cycle and minimize the number of reprocessing steps so as to minimize system costs. The initiative shall assist the Secretary with development of alternative technology options.

"Based on the success learned at the Savannah River Technology Center of the Uranium Extraction Technology, known as UREX in 2002, the Committee expects the Department to expand its efforts to advance research of aqueous spent fuel treatment and to begin the engineering scale demonstrations. The Committee recommends an additional $10,000,000 to accelerate the design activities associated with a proposed Engineering Scale Demonstration [ESD]. The ESD will provide the United States with the capability to conduct research and development into advanced spent fuel separations and transmutation from laboratory scale through engineering scale prior to commercial deployment. The budget request provided funds for pre-conceptual design activities only. This funding will allow completion of the conceptual design in fiscal year 2006 and enable preengineering design to commence in fiscal year 2007. In addition to studying light water reactors, the Committee expects the Department to evaluate fast reactors that are capable of destroying larger amounts of long-lived radioactive material.

"To provide confidence in the technology options proposed, the project will use Department of Energy national laboratory and university expertise to perform research and development of advanced technologies for spent fuel treatment and transmutation of plutonium, higher actinides and long-lived fission products. Advanced nuclear material recycle and safeguard technologies, proliferation-resistant nuclear fuels, and transmutation systems shall be investigated. Both reactor-based and a combination of reactor and accelerator-based transmutation approaches may be included as part of the research and systems analysis.

"The project shall use international and university collaborations to provide cost effective use of research funding. The Committee has provided an additional $6,000,000 to the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative for the UNLV [University of Nevada, Las Vegas] Research Foundation and directs the Department to enter into a 5-year cooperative agreement to study deep burn-up of nuclear fuel and other fuel cycle research to eliminate the need for multiple spent nuclear fuel repositories, to eliminate weapons useable material from disposed spent fuel, and to maintain forever potential radiological releases from a repository below currently legislated limits.

"The Committee is aware of the excellent recent progress in the jointly funded U.S./Russian program to develop the GT-MHR [Gas Turbine - Modular Helium Reactor]. The recent completion of the particle fuel fabrication and testing facilities in Russia along with continued progress in the area of the power conversion system indicates the continued support of the Russians for the development of this option. The Committee also notes that the GT-MHR is a leading Gen IV reactor type. Within the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative, $3,000,000 is provided for the Idaho Accelerator Center and the Department is directed to enter into a 5-year cooperative agreement with IAC. The Department is provided $7,000,000 to develop a Nuclear Energy Materials Test Station at Los Alamos Neutron Science Center to advance the technology needed to support the materials and fuel experiments required by the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative and for the exploration of Generation IV fast neutron spectrum systems. Since the closure of the Fast Flux Test Facility, resulting in no domestic fast neutron source for conducting actinide transmutation, the Materials Test Station will advance the development of improved fuel cycles that can reduce the quantity, heat generation and toxicity of spent nuclear fuel. The Committee recommendation includes $1,000,000 for the Center for Materials Reliability and $750,000 for nuclear transportation hazard research at the University of Nevada-Reno."

The House has passed its version of the FY 2006 funding bill. The Senate bill awaits action on the floor, after which differences in the bills will be resolved in a conference committee.

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
301-209-3095

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