The NFRC was established in 2002 to promote the construction and operation of nuclear reprocessing facilities. NFRC promotes reprocessing commercial spent nuclear fuel that is generated by commercial nuclear power plants.

Reprocessing dramatically reduces the amount of high-level radioactive waste that would have to be stored in a geologic repository. We also support reprocessing plutonium and highly enriched uranium from nuclear warheads into fuel for use in commercial nuclear power plants.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Energy Northwest Nuclear Waste Claim Rejected by Court

Energy Northwest, a Washington state utility, did not prove that the federal government's failure to dispose of nuclear waste from its embattled reactor forced the company to upgrade a $60 million nuclear waste storage facility, a federal appeals court ruled yesterday. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said the utility did not make the case that the federal government's failure to take waste from its 1,150 megawatt Columbia Generating Station required the company to modify its spent fuel storage facility.

The NFRC disagrees with this court decision.  The federal government has the fiduciary responsibility to take possession of commercial nuclear power plant spent fuel.  Billions of dollars have been collected from ratepayers to support the federal government's responsibility for managing the waste.

The 26-year-old nuclear reactor and dry storage facility are located 10 miles north of Richland, Washington.  Energy Northwest sued the Department of Energy in 2004 for money it spent on moving spent nuclear fuel from its overcapacity spent fuel pools to a newly built dry storage facility.

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims then granted Energy Northwest more than $55 million in damages last year. But the appeals court yesterday vacated the claims court's ruling, saying Energy Northwest failed to prove the government's breach of contract required the company to make the upgrades. Therefore, the court said, the federal government is not required to pay the utility $7 million for modifying the spent fuel storage facility or interest payments the utility made in connection with the project.  However, the appeals court ruled Energy Northwest was rightfully granted $2.9 million in "overhead costs" associated with the storage facility.

Energy Northwest could not be reached for comment.

Energy Northwest signed a contract with DOE in 1983 to take spent nuclear fuel from the facility and store it in a permanent repository, which has not yet been built. The agreements followed in the wake of Congress directing the agency to prepare a permanent dump for spent nuclear fuel in 1982.
The contracts stipulated that the federal government was required to dispose of spent nuclear fuel generated by the reactor by 1998 and Energy Northwest was bound to prepare the waste for storage and contribute money to the Nuclear Waste Fund.

The Obama administration ended support for the Yucca Mountain project in Nevada, prompting DOE to withdraw its application for the project and forcing utilities to store waste on-site.

Nuclear plants must store spent fuel in pools for at least five years and thereafter can leave the rods in water indefinitely, but the pools can fill up depending on their arrangement and must be moved to dry storage, according to NRC. Energy Northwest determined by the early 1990s that the pool would reach capacity after 2003 if the government did not take the waste and decided in 1999 to build an "independent spent fuel storage installation" to store the fuel indefinitely in dry casks. The facility was approved to store spent nuclear fuel in 2002. (NYT, 4/8/2011)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

NRC To Review U.S. Nuclear Power Plants

NRC Appoints Task Force To Review U.S. Nuclear Power Plants

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has named six senior managers and staff to its task force for examining the agency’s regulatory requirements, programs, processes, and implementation in light of information from the Fukushima Daiichi site in Japan, following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The task force will be led by Dr. Charles Miller, director of the NRC’s Office of Federal and State Materials and Environmental Management Programs.

Other task force members are:

Daniel Dorman, deputy director of the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards (NMSS);

Jack Grobe, deputy director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (NRR);

Gary Holahan, deputy director of the Office of New Reactors (NRO);

Nathan Sanfilippo, executive technical assistant, Office of the Executive Director for Operations; and

Amy Cubbage, Team Leader, NRO.

The task force will talk to agency technical experts and gather information to conduct a comprehensive review of the information from the events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex and make recommendations for any improvements needed to NRC's regulatory system.
According to the charter, the task force will conduct a near-term review and identify topics for assessment for a longer term review. A written report is expected to made public 90 days after the start of the review.

Initially, the task force will identify potential near-term actions that affect U.S. power reactors, including their spent fuel pools. Areas to be reviewed include station blackout (loss of all A/C power for a reactor), external events that could lead to a prolonged loss of cooling, plant capabilities for preventing or dealing with such circumstances, and emergency preparedness.

The task force plans to brief the Commission in public meetings on the status of the review on May 12 and June 16.  (Power Gen Worldwide, 4/1/2011)

Friday, April 1, 2011

House Investigates Yucca Mountain

Yucca Mountain
House of Representatives leadership is launching an investigation into the Obama administration's decision to abandon plans to store the country's nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), the chairman of the panel’s environment subcommittee, will lead the investigations, which will focus on the administration’s motivations for ending funding for the project and withdrawing its license.

According to Upton and Shimkus:
"There was “no scientific or technical basis for withdrawing the application. The administration’s move to shutter Yucca raises serious red flags. Despite the scientific community’s seal of approval, extensive bipartisan collaboration, as well as nearly three decades and billions of taxpayer dollars spent, this administration has recklessly sought to pull the plug on the Yucca repository without even the sensibility of offering a viable alternative.”
The NFRC agrees.  Moreover, the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan is a reminder that the country must designate a permanent repository for nuclear waste.

Yucca Mountain Repository Tunnel Exit
Upton and Shimkus sent letters Thursday alerting Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko about the investigation. The letters also requested detailed information about the officials’ role in the decision to abandon Yucca Mountain.

Congress approved Yucca Mountain as the country’s nuclear waste repository in 1982. But the project has been mired by years of delay and opposition from Nevada lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). (The Hill, 3/31/2011)