years; and payments for disposal of commercial nuclear fuel,
including interest, exceed $40 billion.
These failures are a “major impediment to the deployment
and operation of nuclear power plants,” Nesbit said, adding
that U.S. influence in nuclear power and nonproliferation suffers from its failure to act responsibly in managing spent fuel.
In addition to completing work on the Yucca Mountain license application and re-establishing OCRWM, the U.S. NIC’s
Backend Working Group supports abandoning the idea to establish a separate repository for defense waste. This decision
was made with no public comment period, and “no coherent
rationale” for it, Nesbit said. This decision must be stayed or
reversed, at least until the U.S. program has made substantial
progress. The Working Group also supports pursuing consolidated storage, management and funding reform, transportation planning and execution, assuring shared value for host
communities, and continued research, development, and demonstration.
Lake Barrett, former OCRWM director, emphasized that
if President Trump directs DOE to resurrect Yucca Mountain,
then the new Secretary of Energy should reach out to repair
relationships, particularly with Nevada. Once the license application proceedings are resumed, a fair, open resolution of
Nevada’s safety concerns will be held before impartial Atomic
Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) judges. Barrett said about
100 more contentions are expected to be raised by Nevada officials, who have been gearing up for the possibility that a new
Administration could try to restart the program.
In about three years, an informed national policy decision
could be made, and the NWPA could be amended. A more robust, sustainable waste management system should be created—one that incorporates interim storage.
DOE must “immediately and proactively” reach out to Nevada to try to reach a mutually beneficial consultation and co-operation agreement. Whatever issues Nevada wants to bring
to the table should be discussed – empowerment, partnership/
governance structures, benefits, economics. Any agreements
should be incorporated into law, contracts, and/or the license
itself to ensure the agreements will be upheld.
Keeping momentum for support of Yucca going on Thurs-
day was Andy Zach of the House Energy and Commerce
Committee, which will be chaired by U.S. Congressman Greg
Walden (R-Ore.). Noting that the comments he made were his
own, Zach said the committee hopes to pick up where the gov-
ernment dropped the ball after the Yucca Mountain license ap-
plication was submitted in 2008. Because of the federal govern-
ment’s inaction, payouts to utilities out of the taxpayer-funded
Judgment Fund has tripled in the last few years, with about $4.5
billion returned to utilities to pay for them to store spent fuel.
The projected government liability has increased to $25 billion,
which is “artificially low” since it assumes the government will
start moving spent fuel in 2021. The Nuclear Waste Fund has
increased to $36 billion, and the fund increased by $1.5 billion
in 2016 in spite of no new revenue coming in since the Court
ordered DOE to discontinue collecting the Nuclear Waste Fee.
Other brief thoughts from Zach:
• Regarding the defense-only repository, Zach noted that
the timeline for its opening is still twenty-three years
away, with a projected opening in 2040. DOE will have
to obtain a license from the NRC to build and operate this
• Interim storage—how does that fit into the big picture to
protect taxpayers, as moving spent fuel twice will cost a
lot of money. Congress will look at it through the lens of a
national priority and how to balance it with other needs.
• Funding reform has been a challenging process, and just
because one party controls all three branches of government does not mean that reforming funding for waste
management will be easy.
Select Country Highlights
Representatives from a number of countries presented their
respective country-level spent fuel management programs.
Carlyn Greene of the Ux Consulting Company (UxC) provided a
high-level overview of spent fuel management policies worldwide, with a closer look at policies in the United States and
specifically, the status of dry storage in the U.S. An overarching concept of spent fuel management is that the entities that
generate radioactive waste should provide for its disposal and
not leave any undue burden on future generations. To that end,
every nation with a policy on final disposal has designated deep
geological disposal as its endpoint, but no repository for spent
nuclear fuel is currently operating. Progress is being made in
Finland, Sweden, and France, while several other countries,
such as Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.,
have made policy decisions to move forward with developing
Until spent fuel can be permanently disposed or is reprocessed, the consensus is that spent fuel storage in pools or
in dry casks is being safely implemented and managed. Many