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.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Tribe Challenges Nuclear Fuel Storage in Minnesota

Xcel Energy Inc. faces scrutiny from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB), which is reviewing the utility's requested 40-year extension of its license to store high-level nuclear waste at its power plant in Red Wing, Minn. The ASLB, in a ruling released Friday, said the Prairie Island Indian  tribe living next to Xcel's Prairie Island nuclear power plant and waste-storage site has raised several contentions about the license extension that warrant a hearing before the board's three-judge panel.

Prairie Island nuclear plant
A core issue -- whether the "temporary" cask storage is becoming permanent -- was set aside by the panel while its parent agency, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, studies the problem across the nation. A federal appeals court in June struck down the commission's waste storage rules, forcing another look at the implications of keeping radioactive waste at reactor sites for up to 60 years. Nuclear companies are dealing with regulations that were established 30 years ago for what everybody thought would be 10 to 20 years of storage.

Minneapolis-based Xcel, the state's largest utility, stores spent fuel rods in 29 casks next to its power plant. Up to 64 casks ultimately may be needed. The casks likely will remain in Minnesota for decades because the federal government hasn't built a permanent storage site.

Those concerns include whether Xcel adequately studied the cumulative effects of additional casks; the low-level radiation they emit skyward; the long-term effects of a newer "high-burn" fuel on the casks; and possible disturbance of historic and archeological resources.

Mahowald said the tribe wants the waste moved, either to a permanent facility or to long-term temporary storage elsewhere. The tribe has pursued those goals not only in the Prairie Island relicensing case, but as a participant in the federal lawsuit that forced a review of U.S. storage rules.

The two reactors at Prairie Island supply about 20 percent of the electricity to Xcel's customers in the Minnesota region. The reactors are licensed to operate until 2033 and 2034. (Star Tribune, 12/26/2012)

Virginia Uranium Moratorium Issue 2013

In the coming session, the Virginia General Assembly is expected to consider lifting a 30-year moratorium on uranium mining permits that some say would clear the way for the first uranium mine on the East Coast. The lode, with an estimated value of $7 billion, is said to be the largest undeveloped deposit in the country and among the largest in the world. It is buried near Chatham, Virginia.

On January 16, 2007 Virginia Uranium was formed, with Walter Coles as chairman and his son, Walter Coles, Jr., as Executive Vice President. Norman Reynolds, who had been president of the predecessor company, Marline, brought his valuable experience to the table as a Director and as President and Chief Executive Officer.

Investor confidence in the company has not lagged, with a total of $39 million being invested in the project since 2007. Much of that has been spent in additional studies of the ore body, as well as in informing Virginians and their legislators of the enormous positive impact the enterprise can have on the state and region as well as on the nation’s energy security.

NFRC supports development of the uranium mine. (Virginia Uranium, Wash Post, 1/27/2012)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

License for Utah Nuclear Waste Site Will Be Withdrawn

Dry Cask Nuclear Waste Storage
A group of utilities has formally ended its pursuit of a spent fuel storage site on tribal land near Salt Lake City, Utah. Private Fuel Storage has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to withdraw a license for the facility on land leased from the Skull Valley Goshute tribe.

The NRC granted a license for the facility about seven years ago, but the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Land Management withheld other approvals needed for the project to move forward. Although those decisions were later overturned in court, the proposal faced intense political opposition at all levels of government in Utah. Opponents often cited its close proximity to a large weapons proving ground and bombing range 45 miles from Salt Lake City.

According to the consortium's website, its members included Xcel Energy, Genoa Fuel Tech, American Electric Power, Southern California Edison, Southern Nuclear Company, First Energy, Florida Power and Light, and Entergy. They had planned to build a concrete pad large enough for interim storage of 4,000 dry casks from around the country. They would not be opened, and the waste would not be handled on site.

The Goshutes agreed to lease 820 acres for the project. According to a website maintained by the state of Utah, the tribe has about 130 members, with between 15 and 20 living on the reservation. It is located in Tooele County, which is also home to a low-level waste disposal facility owned by EnergySolutions. (Nuclear Street, 12/27/2012)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Virginia Uranium Working Group Completes Report

The Virginia Uranium Working Group tasked with proposing guidelines for how the country’s largest known uranium deposit should be safely mined has issued its report. The report notes that if lawmakers lift a permitting ban, there are still many steps before uranium mining would be a reality in the state.  The group is made up of staff from Virginia’s Department of Health, Department of Environmental Quality, and Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.  The group studied the issue for nearly a year and held several public meetings.

Its report explores what a regulatory framework could look like if the General Assembly were to lift a 30-year moratorium on uranium-mining permits. The report, to the state’s Coal and Energy Commission, offers guidance on monitoring the air and water that would surround a uranium mine as well as the health of miners and residents. Suggestions for staffing agencies that could be involved in overseeing the mine are also included. To cover the cost of regulation, the group recommends permitting and licensing fees and a possible tax on the mining companies.

The report does not advocate for or against the issue or compel lawmakers to take action — the group was not asked to take those positions — although the commission is expected to make a recommendation before the start of the legislative session in January. In 1982, state lawmakers banned permitting pending the creation of regulations.

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), who created the group in January, said he will meet with stakeholders and review public comment before weighing in on whether the ban should be lifted.

In the late 1970s, uranium was discovered in south central Virginia. The site at Coles Hill, in Pittsylvania County, sits on land used to produce cattle, hay and timber. The deposit is believed to be the seventh largest in the world: enough to supply all U.S. nuclear power plants for about two years or satisfy Virginia’s demands for 75 years. The uranium deposit, 119 million pounds, is worth an estimated $10 billion.

Supporters say that lifting the ban would tap a homegrown energy resource, respect private-property rights and create jobs in an economically depressed region of the commonwealth. But critics say mining has significant health and environmental risks that outweigh economic and energy interests.

In 2007, landowner Walter Coles established Virginia Uranium, and the company has lobbied aggressively to lift the ban. As part of its push, the company spoke to more than 100 legislators and flew more than a dozen of them to France and Canada to visit uranium mines.

Virginia Uranium’s efforts were stalled in January, when McDonnell asked the General Assembly not to lift the ban during the 2012 session and instead called for the study. In his order, McDonnell set a deadline of Dec. 1 for the group to present its findings.