Kevin McMahon, Peter Swift, Mark Nutt, Mark Peters, Jeff Williams, Michael Voegele, Jens Birkholzer
The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE-NE), Office of Fuel Cycle Technologies (OFCT) has established the Used Fuel Disposition Campaign (UFDC) to conduct research and development (R&D) activities related to storage, transportation and disposal of low level waste (LLW), used nuclear fuel (UNF) and high level radioactive waste (HLW).
The U.S. has, for the past twenty-plus years, focused efforts on disposing spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and HLW in a geologic repository at Yucca Mountain Nevada. The recent decision by the U.S. DOE to no longer pursue the development of that repository has necessitated investigating alternative concepts for the disposal of SNF and HLW that exists today and that could be generated under future fuel cycles. The disposal of SNF and HLW in a range of geologic media has been investigated internationally. Considerable progress has been made by in the U.S and other nations, but gaps in knowledge still exist.
The U.S. national laboratories have participated in these programs and have conducted R&D related to these issues to a limited extent. However, a comprehensive R&D program investigating a variety of storage, geologic media and disposal concepts has not been a part of the U.S. waste management program since the mid 1980s. Such a comprehensive R&D program has been developed in the UFDC using a systematic approach to identify potential R&D opportunities. This paper will describe the process used by the UFDC and summarize the R&D being pursued.
The U.S. DOE has cooperated and collaborated with other countries in many different “arenas” including the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and through bilateral agreements with other countries. These international activities benefited the DOE through the acquisition and exchange of information, database development, and peer reviews by experts from other countries. Recognizing that programs in other countries have made significant advances in understanding a wide range of geologic environments, the UFDC has developed a strategy for continued, and expanded, international collaboration. This paper will describe this strategy.