DOE planning ‘consent-based’ approach to nuclear waste storage

The decades-long effort by the United States to do something about spent nuclear fuel took another step Dec. 21 toward a “consent-based approach to siting future nuclear waste management facilities,” according to the Department of Energy (DOE).

DOE will soon be issuing an invitation for public comment in the Federal Register. DOE also plans to hold several public meetings on the issue across the nation in 2016.

DOE said in a news release that the step follows Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz’s announcement in March 2015 that DOE would move forward with the development of a separate repository for defense waste.

Going back to the recommendations of President Obama’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, DOE will seek a way to ensure “announcement in March 2015 that DOE would move forward with the development of a separate repository for defense waste,” according to a DOE news release.

This has been a big issue with the controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada. Licensing of the proposed DOE spent nuclear fuel facility in Nevada was effectively halted in the early days of the Obama administration. The federal courts, however, ordered the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to resume the license process for Yucca Mountain.

Nuclear power is a big part of the nation’s energy mix, and has reliably provided almost 20% of electrical generation in the U.S. over the past two decades. It remains the United States’ single largest contributor (more than 60%) of non-greenhouse-gas-emitting electric power generation, DOE said.

Spent nuclear fuel from commercial reactors is currently stored on-site at nuclear power plants around the country.

While it is safe and secure in these locations, a long-term solution is needed to ensure that the public and environment continue to be protected, DOE said.

DOE’s current strategy outlines a need for a pilot interim storage facility, a larger interim storage facility, and long-term geologic repositories. To support each of these elements of an integrated waste management system, the strategy also emphasizes the importance of a consent-based approach to siting waste storage and disposal facilities throughout the decision making process.

Interested parties can file comments on consent-based spent fuel storage via the DOE website at consentbasedsiting@hq.doe.gov.

DOE said: Please also visit our website at energy.gov/consentbasedsiting to learn more about our activities and find opportunities to participate.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.