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What is DOE doing with spent nuclear fuel today?

DOE currently manages only about 3% (in terms of metric tons of heavy metal) of the nation's spent nuclear fuel. The remainder is managed by commercial nuclear utilities. DOE fuel is located at DOE laboratory sites, with small amounts at universities and in foreign countries. Congress has determined that a permanent disposition for spent nuclear fuel is an underground repository. However, a repository is not expected to be available for almost another 20 years.

Through the National Environmental Policy Act, a federal regulatory process which mandates participation by the public, a decision was made to consolidate DOE-owned spent nuclear fuel at existing DOE laboratory sites that have the skills, facilities, and technologies to best handle the fuel. Based on the decisions from the associated environmental impact statement, DOE will temporarily store its spent nuclear fuel at the Hanford Site in Washington, the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) in Idaho, and the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina until a repository is completed. The Hanford Site will retain most of its current inventory of spent nuclear fuel. The remaining DOE spent nuclear fuel will be consolidated at either the INEEL or SRS, depending on the type of fuel.

Some of the existing storage facilities being used at the DOE laboratory sites are outdated and do not meet current safety standards. New facilities are being developed to replace these outdated facilities.

What will DOE be doing with spent nuclear fuel in the future?

Each of the three locations selected to manage DOE spent nuclear fuel is focusing its efforts to put spent nuclear fuel in temporary dry storage where it can be quickly readied for transport once a repository is completed.

There are roughly 250 different types of DOE spent nuclear fuel. Before the fuel can be placed in the repository, it must meet repository requirements for acceptance. Those requirements are presently being established.

DOE will be examining the spent nuclear fuel to verify that its composition and properties meet the repository acceptance requirements. Some of the fuel will likely need to be conditioned, treated, or placed in special canisters to meet acceptance requirements.

In the future, DOE will also become the custodian of commercial spent nuclear fuel currently owned by nuclear utilities throughout the U.S. That effort is being managed by the DOE Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management. The National Spent Nuclear Fuel Program is coordinating with the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Managment and the DOE sites to ensure DOE spent nuclear fuel will be included with commercial spent nuclear fuel in the repository.

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Information Owner: Sheryl Morton - NSNFP Staff, http://nsnfp.inel.gov/mailFrm.asp?r=poc, 208-526-8247.
Web Contact: Dean Frickey, http://nsnfp.inel.gov/mailFrm.asp?r=web, 208-526-0680.

Date Last Modified: Thursday, June 15, 2000