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FYI Number 161: November 10, 2005

FY 2006 DOE Appropriations Bill Charts New Direction on Nuclear Waste

One of the more notable areas of disagreement between the House and Senate versions of the FY 2006 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill was the disposal of civilian nuclear waste. The House appropriations subcommittee included rather direct language about the transfer, storage, and reprocessing of spent nuclear waste (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/082.html) that was the topic of two House Science subcommittee hearings (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/118.html.) The counterpart Senate bill did not include such language (http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/102.html.)

The FY 2006 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill (H.R. 2419) will soon go to President George Bush for his signature. While the conference report (109-275) language is not legally binding, it marks the beginning of a new approach to nuclear waste disposal. This language follows:

"Integrated spent fuel recycling.--Given the uncertainties surrounding the Yucca Mountain license application process, the conferees provide $50,000,000, not derived from the Nuclear Waste Fund, for the Department to develop a spent nuclear fuel recycling plan. Under the Nuclear Energy account, [see below] the conferees provide additional research funds to select one or more advanced recycling technologies and to complete conceptual design and initiate pre-engineering design of an Engineering Scale Demonstration of advanced recycling technology. Coupled with this technology research and development effort, funds are provided under the Nuclear Waste Disposal account to prepare the overall program plan and to initiate a competition to select one or more sites suitable for development of integrated recycling facilities (i.e., separation of spent fuel, fabrication of mixed oxide fuel, vitrification of waste products, and process storage) and initiate work on an Environmental Impact Statement. The site competition should not be limited to DOE sites, but should be open to a wide range of other possible federal and non-federal sites on a strictly voluntary basis. The conferees remind the Department that the Nuclear Waste Policy Act prohibits interim storage of nuclear waste in the State of Nevada. To support the development of detailed site proposals for this competition, the conferees make a total of $20,000,000 available to the site offerors, with a maximum of $5,000,000 available per site. To be eligible to receive these funds, each applicant site must be able to identify all state, regulatory, and environmental permits required for permitting this facility, including identifying any legislative or regulatory prohibitions that might prevent siting such a facility. The conferees direct the Secretary to submit a detailed program plan to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations not later than March 31, 2006, and to initiate the site selection competition not later than June 30, 2006. The target for site selection is fiscal year 2007, and the target for initiation of construction of one or more integrated spent fuel recycling facilities is fiscal year 2010. Any funds deemed to be in excess of the needs for the integrated recycling program plan may only be diverted to other activities after submittal and approval of a formal reprogramming to Congress."

The Nuclear Energy Programs section of the conference report has the following language:

"The conferees provide $80,000,000 for the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative (AFCI), $10,000,000 over the request. The additional funds are to be used to accelerate the design activities associated with a proposed Engineering Scale Demonstration (ESD). This funding will allow completion of the conceptual design in fiscal year 2006 and enable pre-engineering design to commence in fiscal year 2007. The conferees direct the Department to accelerate the development of a separations technology that can address the current inventories of commercial spent nuclear fuel and select the preferred technology no later than the end of fiscal year 2007. The conferees direct the Department to submit the spent nuclear fuel recycling technology plan to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations by March 1, 2006."

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

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