Selected SLC Research
Webinar | June 16, 2015
Spent Fuel Storage - Challenges and Opportunities
All used nuclear fuel produced by the United States nuclear energy industry in the last 50 years of operation—approximately 71,790 metric tons—would, if stacked end to end, only cover an area the size of a football field to a depth of about seven yards. Spent fuel is a solid material that is stored safely and securely at nuclear power plant sites, either in enclosed, steel-lined concrete pools filled with water, or in steel or reinforced concrete containers with steel inner canisters. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission determined that used fuel could be stored safely at power plant sites or central storage facilities for at least 120 years. However, this storage was never intended to be permanent. Although the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 established a national program for the safe, permanent disposal of highly radioactive wastes, there currently is no disposal site in the United States for spent rods from more than 100 operating commercial nuclear reactors across the country.
In 2002, Congress approved a site at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain. However, that project was stalled and defunded in 2010. As the nation moves to reduce carbon emissions, nuclear energy may become an increasingly important element in the stability of the U.S. power system, intensifying the need for a permanent solution to spent fuel storage. This webinar reviewed current storage practices and explore challenges and opportunities for a permanent storage solution for the nation’s high-level radioactive spent fuel.