[ RadSafe ] News article: Science Committee Gives Qualified Support for Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Plan

John Jacobus crispy_bird at yahoo.com
Fri Sep 1 13:14:55 CDT 2006

>From another list server.  I assume that some are
interested in this issue.
The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science
Policy News Number 108: August 30, 2006

Science Committee Gives Qualified Support for Nuclear
Fuel Reprocessing Plan

As described in FYI #107, the House Science Committee
has passed and sent to the floor H.R. 5656, the Energy
Research, Development, Demonstration and Commercial
Application Act of 2006.  This legislation generally
supports the Administration’s goal for an advanced
nuclear fuel cycle, but also demonstrates members’
concerns that aspects of the plan “are not
sufficiently developed for Congress to act upon.”

HR. 5656 has fairly specific language in Section 4 on
an “advanced nuclear fuel cycle technologies research,
development, and demonstration plan” calling for the
Energy Secretary to “develop a comprehensive modeling
and simulation capability to enable a thorough
analysis of possible advanced nuclear fuel cycle
systems.”   The resulting plan would then be reviewed
by the National Academy of Sciences.  However, under
“Prohibition” the bill states: “The Secretary shall
not initiate detailed design or construction of any
demonstration facility that is capable of processing
750 kilograms or more per year of nuclear fuel or
spent nuclear fuel and that is designed to demonstrate
the advanced nuclear fuel system component
technologies . . . until 90 days after the report . .
. [containing the NAS report and DOE’s reaction to it]
has been transmitted to Congress.”  House Science
Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert called this an
“amber light” to proceed.

The House Science Committee report accompanying this
bill describes the committee’s thinking:

“Section 4. Advanced Fuel Cycle Technologies for
Nuclear Power. The Committee supports the President's
vision for U.S. leadership in developing advanced
nuclear power technologies. The Committee is
concerned, however, that DOE's proposed RD&D
activities for advanced nuclear fuel cycle
technologies included under the Global Nuclear Energy
Partnership (GNEP) initiative are not sufficiently
developed for Congress to act upon. In particular, the
Committee is concerned that DOE has selected specific
advanced nuclear fuel cycle technologies for
large-scale, expensive demonstrations, including fast
reactors and fuel fabrication facilities, without
conducting the necessary analysis and without
consulting a sufficiently wide range of technical

“A program of the size and scope that is proposed in
DOE's fiscal year 2007 budget request requires
rigorous justification of technology choices based on
a comprehensive analysis of the entire fuel cycle. For
example, DOE appears to have chosen a fast reactor to
carry the entire transmutation burden in an advanced
fuel cycle. Experts within and outside of DOE have
estimated that such a fuel cycle could require one
fast reactor to every three or four thermal reactors.
The Committee has concerns about the commercial
viability of such a reactor fleet. In addition to
considering a range of fast reactor designs, the
Committee expects DOE to consider the role of advanced
thermal reactors that could be capable of carrying
some of the transmutation burden at lower cost.

“The Committee believes that an open process of broad
consultation is essential for a major initiative, such
as the nuclear power technology RD&D components of the
GNEP initiative, to succeed. A systematic process for
seeking input from technical experts, industry, other
entities and individuals interested in an expansion of
domestic nuclear power would provide confidence to the
Committees of jurisdiction in Congress that DOE's
proposal for multi-billion dollar capital investments
in large-scale engineering demonstration projects has
been widely vetted.

“For the future, the Committee believes that DOE
should develop an ongoing long-range planning and
prioritization process for nuclear energy RD&D modeled
on planning and prioritization processes used by the
Office of Science and other Federal science agencies,
for science programs that require large-scale, complex
RD&D facilities. Any such planning process should
include a periodic review by an independent body, such
as the NAS. The Committee suggests that, at an
appropriate time after the NAS review required by this
legislation, DOE consider entering into an arrangement
with the NAS to conduct a decadal survey, such as
those conducted for astronomy and other physical
sciences sub-disciplines, of RD&D priorities for
nuclear energy.

“The Committee does not intend for the prohibition in
subsection (d) [as quoted above in paragraph two] to
limit R&D or conceptual design work on any aspect of
nuclear power technology. Nor does the Committee
intend to slow or prevent progress on the Uranium
Extraction plus (UREX+) demonstration facility,
provided that such a demonstration is truly at
engineering scale - that is, the minimum size required
to predict with confidence all physical processes
controlling the performance of a full-scale industrial
facility. The Committee understands from a number of
experts that an appropriate scale for such a facility
is one with the capacity to process approximately
20-25 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel per year.”

House and Senate appropriators have included report
language on nuclear fuel reprocessing in the FY 2007
Energy and Water Development Appropriations bills. 
The House Appropriations Committee report language can
be read at http://www.aip.org/fyi/2006/070.html.  The
Senate language is provided at
http://www.aip.org/fyi/2006/090.html.  Note that House
Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY)
said of the H.R. 5656 advanced fuel cycle provision at
the committee mark up: “This language will probably
end up moving on the floor separately from the rest of
this bill, but we thought it was important to put the
Committee on record on this program.”

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
The American Institute of Physics
fyi at aip.org    http://www.aip.org/gov
(301) 209-3095

May we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion. 
Dwight D. Eisenhower  

-- John
John Jacobus, MS
Certified Health Physicist
e-mail:  crispy_bird at yahoo.com

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