A Review of U.S. DOE Activities to Manage, Package, Transport and Dispose of DOE Spent Nuclear Fuel

Bret Leslie - US Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board
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The U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (NWTRB) reviewed the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) efforts to manage the inventory of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) that is under its control at Hanford Site, the Idaho National Laboratory, the Savanah River Site, and the Fort St. Vrain independent spent fuel storage installation. Until disposal occurs, it is essential to manage SNF in a way that will facilitate its eventual disposal, and it is also important to improve understanding of processes related to packaging and storage of the SNF that could affect future transportation and disposal activities. Based on the information and findings developed as part of its review, the NWTRB made recommendations to Congress and the Secretary of Energy related to aging management, packaging, and disposal of DOE SNF. Outstanding packaging issues primarily are related to the DOE standardized canister. DOE has yet to finish research and development (R&D) activities for the DOE standardized canister that will be needed to design and operate any packaging facility it develops. Defining what is, and proving, suitable drying of the SNF and any water-bearing materials added during packaging of the DOE standardized canister is critical. Water remaining in the standardized canister after drying affects degradation within the canister and can create conditions (e.g., generation of hydrogen) that impact the suitability for later canister transport. The Board recommended that DOE include the capability for measuring and monitoring the conditions of the SNF in new DOE storage systems, such as the DOE standardized canister, and in new packaging and storage facilities to aid in establishing the condition of the SNF during subsequent operations and its acceptability for those operations. The Board recommended that DOE conduct R&D activities to confirm that reactions between DOE SNF and any water remaining in any multi-purpose canister do not cause cumulative conditions inside the canister (e.g., combustibility, pressurization, or corrosion) to exceed either the design specifications or applicable regulatory operational requirements. The Board recommended that DOE complete R&D and licensing-related activities for the DOE standardized canister prior to completing the packaging facility’s preliminary design.