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.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR)


Work done at Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL) back in the 1950s and 60s demonstrated the feasibility of breeding U-233 from Thorium-232 as well as 'burning' U-233 in Molten Salts (ionic compounds). These molten salts  (lithium fluoride and beryllium fluoride) serve as a carrier fluid for both Thorium (Thorium tetraflouride) [Blanket] and Uranium (Uranium tetraflouride) [Core]. The resulting design has been coined the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor or LFTR (See diagram above). Below is a simplified LFTR diagram. 

In a LFTR, fission takes place in a liquid core. Fission generates heat that ultimately finds use to do some useful work (e.g. drive a turbine to make electricity). Surrounding the core is a blanket of liquid carrying Thorium. Neutrons from fission pass from the core to the blanket for absorption by the Thorium. This transforms the Thorium to Uranium-233. After chemical removal of the Uranium-233 from the blanket, it goes into the core as new fuel. Next is the chemical removal of the fission products from the core. The process is self-sustaining, requiring only Thorium as input.

A LFTR was never built at ORNL. However, they did build and operate the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MRSE) for four years from 1965 through 1969. This reactor generated 7.5 Megawatts, allowing the scientists to determine the design parameters and work through system issues to arrive at a design that allows for the burning nuclear fuel in molten salts. The MSRE worked out nearly all key issues needed to build a LFTR.

The MSRE demonstrated:
  1. The burning of both U-235 as well as U-233 in a carrier salt of LiF-BeF2-ZrF4-UF4
  2. Operation at high temperature (650°C) at full power for more than one year
  3. Operation at atmospheric pressure
  4. That carrier salts were impervious to radiation damage
  5. The carrier salt chemistry and metals metallurgy to eliminate corrosion
  6. An efficient method of on-line refueling
  7. Largely validated predictions
The MSRE did not:
  1. Have a blanket to breed U-233 from Thorium (therefore, it was not a complete LFTR)
  2. Have the size of a utility class power plant, (this was the next step before funding ceased)
  3. Have a power conversion system to generate electricity
Conventional Nuclear Power suffers from two key issues: spent nuclear fuel or nuclear waste and costs of plant construction. Significant mitigation of both of these issues is accomplished with a LFTR.

LFTRs have some significant advantages compare to today’s nuclear power. The most significant of these stem from the liquid core running at atmospheric pressure.

These advantages are:

  1. No water under pressure, therefore no pressure vessel, reducing cost
  2. No large reinforced concrete containment building is required, reducing cost
  3. Can be built in a factory, reducing costs
  4. Because the core can be drained, LFTRs exhibit an enormous level of passive safety
  5. Can be refueled without shut down
  6. Exhibit 100% fuel burn up and generates almost no long lived radioactive waste
  7. Configurations of LFTRs can consume the long lived radioactive elements in our present stockpiles of nuclear waste
  8. Allow for the extraction of molybdenum-99 for medical purposes. Eliminating a supply shortage issue (
  9. Allows for the extraction (in large quantities) of other radioactive isotopes for medical purposes
  10. Can operate at high temperature, allowing the use of waste heat to desalinate seawater; higher temperatures can make for economical generation of synthetic fuels, (could use CO2 from the atmosphere, thus making synthetic fuels carbon neutral)
(Energy From Thorium)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

History of 1st and Only Commercial Reprocessing Plant


West Valley, New York is the site of the first and, to date, only commercial reprocessing plant in the United States. After beginning operations in 1966 with a theoretical capacity to reprocess 300 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel per year, the facility reprocessed a total of 640 tons of waste in six years before shutting down in 1972. In that time, it transformed West Valley into a radioactive waste site, ultimately accumulating over 600,000 gallons of high-level waste in onsite storage tanks. After years of delay, legal disputes, and waste treatment and billions of dollars in federal expenditures, stabiliza­tion of the high-level waste under the West Valley Demonstration Project (WVDP) was completed in 2002, but all of it remains onsite. Cleanup of reprocessing activities at the site, including "low-level" waste removal and decontamination, is expected to take 40 years and cost over $5 billion.



1966West Valley reprocessing plant opens, operated by Nuclear Fuel Services
1972West Valley closes for renovations, never to reopen
1976Nuclear Fuel Services cedes plant ownership to the state of New York, citing rising costs
1980Congress passes the West Valley Demonstration Project Act
1988High-level waste pretreatment begins at WVDP
1999Vitrification of high-level waste initiated
2001GAO releases report estimating $4.5 billion in total WVDP cleanup costs (GAO-01-314)
2002High-level waste vitrification completed
2003WVDP's focus shifts to low level waste
2005GAO revisions indicate growth in cleanup cost total by $800 million
2006New York sues the DOE, asking the court to determine the level of federal responsibility under the law, including long-term stewardship of the site, and seeking reimbursement of New York's costs and compensation for some aspects of the cleanup effort


(DOE Timeline)


Friday, February 15, 2013

Southern New Mexico Nuclear Fuel Storage Deal

The Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA) includes the New Mexico Eddy and Lea County governments and the cities of Carlsbad and Hobbs. The organization was formed to convince the U.S. Department of Energy that it should consider a site in this area for a proposed integrated nuclear fuel reprocessing facility.

The Alliance purchased 1,000 acres between Eddy and Lea County off U.S. Highway 62-180 and seven miles north of the Waste Isolation. As a result of the purchases, the Alliance was among eleven successful entities selected to receive federal grants to conduct detailed siting stud-ies for integrated spent fuel recycling facilities under the Department of Energy's Global Nuclear Partnership initiatives.

The alliance received over a million dollars for the siting study, but was not successful in getting the project built in the southeast corner of the state. Since then, the alliance has explored potential nuclear projects that could be built on the site.

This week the alliance announced it has struck a deal with French firm AREVA to help create an above-ground interim storage facility to store nuclear fuel on the 1,000 acres between Carlsbad and Hobbs. The facility is being billed as a safe way to temporarily house used fuel from nuclear power plants. The facility would provide more than 150 job opportunities, including positions for armed guards, nuclear scientists, engineers and managerial and administrative staff, according a news release.

The Alliance chose AREVA from a pool of 10 potential partners because the firm already has experience operating an above-ground interim storage facility in France. If plans proceed, the Eddy/Lea operation would be the first in the United States. AREVA is a good choice because it has experience in the nuclear industry and it has joined with Babcock and Wilson Technical Services Group in the URS Corporation led nuclear Waste Partnership LLC, to manage the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant located about 27 miles east of Carlsbad. (El Paso Times, 10/12/2012)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Duke Energy To Close Crystal River Nuclear Plant

Crystal River Plant
Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy said Tuesday it will permanently close their Florida Crystal River Nuclear Plant after botched repairs and use $835 million from an insurance settlement to refund consumers forced to pay for higher-cost replacement power. But Duke Energy also said it will seek to recoup from customers its $1.65 billion investment in the Crystal River Nuclear Plant, about 70 miles north of Tampa. The company said it is starting a closing process that may take 60 years before the nuclear site is decontaminated and dismantled and considering whether to build a new, natural-gas-fueled power plant to replace the power lost.

The nuclear plant operated by Duke Energy subsidiary Progress Energy Florida has been shut down since 2009, when its concrete containment building cracked during a maintenance and upgrade project. A 2011 repair attempt resulted in new cracks in other parts of the containment structure. Estimates put repair costs at between $1.3 billion and $3.4 billion.

The federal operating license for the nuclear plant, which began operating in 1977, was due to expire at the end of 2016, meaning Duke Energy would have had to wage a regulatory fight to extend its authority to operate.

Progress Energy Florida provides electricity to more than 1.6 million Florida customers, including the cities of St. Petersburg and Clearwater and the area surrounding Orlando.  (Huffington Post, 2/5/2013)

S. 3469, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2012

The NFRC clearly made a difference in the nuclear waste area.  Former Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman introduced the legislation below last year, which is clearly patterned after our proposed Nuclear Waste Mangement Agency Act.

S. 3469, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2012

The bill seeks to establish a new organization to manage nuclear waste, provide a consensual process for siting nuclear waste facilities, and ensure adequate funding for managing nuclear waste.

Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Washington Post on Nuclear Waste

The Post’s View

A central nuclear waste repository is years IT HAS BEEN 15 years since the federal government was legally obliged — but failed — to begin accepting waste from the country’s nuclear power plants. It has been four years since President Obama zeroed out funds for a permanent geologic repository at Yucca Mountain, Nev., eliminating hope that the government would live up to its obligation anytime soon. And, according to the Obama administration’s new strategy for dealing with nuclear waste, it will be another 35 years until the government opens a permanent repository at a different site, location as yet unknown. Even if the government meets its new timetable, that adds up to 50 years of delay, a not-in-my-back-yard nightmare that the country is only partway through.

More than 68,000 metric tons of nuclear waste have accumulated next to U.S. reactors, which weren’t designed for long-term storage, and that figure is increasing by about 2,000 metric tons every year. Even decommissioned nuclear facilities require gates and guards to protect the waste, a ridiculous misuse of land and money. Meanwhile, consumers financing a federal waste disposal fund through their electricity bills wonder what they’ve been paying for, and the federal government’s financial liability for failing to collect the waste, already in the billions, continues to mount. The situation is safe enough, but it could be safer, and it’s inexcusably expensive.
Last month the Energy Department finally released its proposal. It is a reasonable plan for post-Yucca policymaking that nevertheless relies on a big assumption — that someplace in the country will volunteer to host some waste.

The administration wants to build at least two centralized, interim storage facilities where waste could sit before its eventual transfer to a permanent repository. The first, to open by 2021, would be a pilot storage facility designed to take waste from decommissioned nuclear sites. The second would open by 2025; in combination, these facilities would draw down the amount of waste stored at current and decommissioned reactor sites. When the anticipated permanent repository comes online — supposedly by 2048 — the waste would move there.

Every step, the administration insists, must be “consent-based,” with localities accepting waste facilities in return for their economic benefits and perhaps some additional compensation. Congress tried forcing Nevada to take the country’s waste, the thinking goes; this time, the government should try recruitment rather than compulsion. We are skeptical that many localities would volunteer to host waste facilities, particularly the permanent repository, no matter the economic benefits. But perhaps the administration’s staged approach might be a way to convince communities, with each step building confidence that this material can be stored safely. (Wash Post, 2/3/2013)