As part of its commitment to developing an effective strategy for the safe and secure storage and management of used nuclear fuel, the Energy Department has announced a new dry storage research and development project led by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). The project will design and demonstrate dry storage cask technology for high burn-up spent nuclear fuels that have been removed from commercial nuclear power plants.
“The Energy Department is committed to advancing clean, reliable and safe nuclear power – which provides the largest source of low-carbon electricity in the United States,” said Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Pete Lyons. “At the same time, the Department is working to address the challenges of the back end of the fuel cycle, including advancing secure and reliable extended storage and dry cask technologies.”
In the nuclear energy industry, burn-up relates to the power extracted from reactor fuels. Over the last few years, many improvements have been made in fuel technologies which have allowed plant operators to achieve higher burn-up levels, almost doubling the amount of energy captured. The Energy Department has studied the current long-term dry cask systems used to store spent nuclear fuel from commercial nuclear power reactors, and has identified areas for continued research and data collection related to the storage of high burn-up spent fuel. The research project led by EPRI will focus on studying these issues. The Department will invest $15.8 million over five years, with private industry contributing at least 20 percent of the total project cost.
This work builds on the steps the Department is taking in FY 2013, and has proposed for FY 2014, to support a new strategy for the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle. In the Energy Department’s budget request presented last week, the Department requested $60 million for nuclear waste research and development that aligns with the recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future and supports to the Administration’s Strategy for the Management and Disposal of Used Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste. The request includes funds to lay the groundwork for the design of an integrated waste management system as well as related research and development on storage, transportation and materials issues.