Environmental Protection

DOE Resumes Search for Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Waste Repository

DOE will follow the process laid out in a strategy document from 2013. The strategy is to establish a pilot interim storage facility that mainly will accept used nuclear fuel from reactors that have already been shut down; a larger interim storage facility; and one or more long-term geologic repositories.

A Dec. 21 announcement from Franklin Orr, U.S. Department of Energy under secretary for science and energy, is a jolt: He explained that DOE has again begun working on "a consent-based approach to siting future nuclear waste management facilities as part of a strategy for the long-term storage and disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste." Which was the goal of those seeking to inter such fuel and wastes at Yucca Mountain for roughly 20 years.

"The launch of our consent-based siting initiative represents an important step toward addressing this nuclear waste management challenge, so that we can continue to benefit from nuclear technologies. Today's step forward follows Secretary Moniz’s announcement in March 2015 that DOE would move forward with the development of a separate repository for defense waste," Orr wrote. He explained that a consent-based siting process will ensure that communities, tribes, and states are partners comfortable with the location of future storage and disposal facilities before they are constructed. "We will be developing a detailed plan for this process in the coming year, and we need your help," Orr added.

DOE will follow the process laid out in a strategy document from 2013 that was based on recommendations from President Obama's Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future. The strategy is to establish a pilot interim storage facility that mainly will accept used nuclear fuel from reactors that have already been shut down; a larger interim storage facility; and one or more long-term geologic repositories.

"Full implementation of this strategy will take time," he explained. "Today's action brings us a step closer to that goal, and the Department of Energy is seeking the help of all Americans to develop a fair and effective approach to consent-based siting. Your input will inform the design of a consent-based siting process, which will serve as a framework for collaborating with interested host communities across the country. We want to hear from you, so please respond to our Invitation for Public Comment, which will be published in the Federal Register in the coming days. You can also attend one of our public meetings taking place across the country throughout 2016. Finally, you can send emails with comments or concerns to the Department of Energy at consentbasedsiting@hq.doe.gov. Please also visit our website at energy.gov/consentbasedsiting to learn more about our activities and find opportunities to participate."

The kickoff meeting will take place from 1-4 p.m. on Jan. 20, 2016, at the Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel (999 9th St. NW in Washington, D.C. More information about it will be posted soon at the website.

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