U.S. Spent Nuclear Fuel: A Market Based Solution

  • May 25, 2011

    WASHINGTON, May 25, 2011 – The Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) today released a new report, "US Spent Nuclear Fuel: A Market Based Solution," co-authored by CSIS Proliferation Program Director Sharon Squassoni, Charles D. Fergusun, president of the Federation of American Scientists, Clifford E. Singer, professor of nuclear, plasma, and radiological engineering and political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Jack Spencer, research fellow on nuclear energy policy at the Heritage Foundation.

    Please find a link to the full report here:

    A summary of the report prepared by the Proliferation Prevention Program is below:

    Executive Summary: U.S. Spent Nuclear Fuel

    The central planning approach to U.S. spent nuclear fuel management has been a glaring and unsuccessful exception to the trend towards a market-driven energy sector. This report envisions a market-driven approach, which would include eight components:

    1. Phase out payment utilities’ payments to the federal government for spent fuel management in favor of payments into escrow funds.
    2. Reassess the radioisotope containment criteria for spent fuel repositories (i.e., the “million year” benchmark).
    3. Do not require prompt deep burial of all spent fuel.
    4. Provide federal support for preparation of licenses for away-from-reactor spent fuel storage facilities.
    5. Remove nontechnical restrictions on maximum volumes and site license durations for away-from-reactor spent fuel management facilities.
    6. Treat all states equally in voluntary licensing processes, including Nevada.
    7. Allow the private sector options to: keep spent fuel at reactor sites; ship it to another of their reactor sites in the same state; ship it to a reactor site of another company in the same state and transfer the escrow fund balance to that company; or ship it out of state. Shipments out of state could be to a spent fuel storage facility that might or might not be located at a licensed deep underground repository, to a repository for prompt emplacement, or to a reprocessing facility if one is available.
    8. Allow states to import foreign spent fuel, to the extent consistent with U.S. nonproliferation policy and U.S. facilities’ capacity to handle domestic spent fuel.

    As with reactor decommissioning, payments to the federal treasury for spent fuel management can eventually be replaced by payments into escrow funds associated with each nuclear fuel dry storage cask. When spent fuel is shipped across state lines, the recipient state could require payment in excess of a federally determined minimum adequate to ensure the safe and secure future management of the spent fuel. By freeing up the remainder of the escrow fund balance, this approach would provide an incentive for shipping fuel off of reactor sites.

    Consistent with federal requirements on safety, security, and sound financial management, this approach should provide current and future generations with the flexibility needed to take advantage of technological improvements, adapt to varying levels of spent nuclear fuel, and make decisions about the fate of spent nuclear fuel decades in advance. Fundamentally, this approach would convert spent nuclear fuel from a liability to an asset.

                                                          # # #

    The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions; accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in these publications should be understood to be solely those of the authors.