Generation of SNF & HLW

The Relevance of Generation in SNF/HLW Transport

Key parameters for the transport of SNF or HLW in the U.S. are the amount, characteristics (e.g. older, younger), distribution, and status (e.g. in wet or dry storage) of the material requiring transport. This makes for a rather complicated logistical problem, even if one could assume no concerns or objections among corridor communities.

In Sweden, nuclear power was developed on five coastal sites. All nuclear waste shipments go by sea, using a special ship (the m/s Sigyn) built in 1982, with a double bottom and double hull to protect the cargo in the event of collision or grounding. No nuclear waste is transported over land, through communities. The development of nuclear power in Sweden was accompanied by a concept and plan for transport of its spent nuclear fuel.

In the U.S., nuclear power developed with consideration of water for cooling (the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards, the Great Lakes, the TVA system for navigation, flood control and economic development, the Mississippi and Missouri River valleys) but with no consideration of the prospective need for nuclear waste transport. In part, of course, this reflects character of the North American continent, but it also reflects the division of responsibilities under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954—private utilities decide to develop nuclear power; the federal government is responsible for SNF disposal, and for transport necessary for disposal. The result is that nuclear waste transport was not a consideration in the development of nuclear power in the U.S., and the nuclear waste transportation task is greatly complicated as a result.

Similarly, the eventual need to transport high-level defense waste was not considered in the development of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex in the 1940s and 1950s. Rather, major facilities were separated from one another, so that all could not be destroyed in a single missile attack:

  • Uranium enrichment at the Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge, TN;
  • Plutonium production at Hanford, WA;
  • Tritium and mixed-oxide production at the Savannah River Site, SC;
  • Nuclear trigger production at Rocky Flats, CO;
  • Nuclear weapons assembly at Pantex, TX;
  • Nuclear weapons testing at the Nevada Test Site.

The result? A single disposal site for HLW is needed; however, for 91% of the prospective shipments, the origins (Hanford and SRS) are 2,660 miles apart.

  • Shutdown Reactor Sites
    • Distribution & centriods
    • Inventory
    • Storage, Dry
  • Still Operating Reactors
    • Distribution & centriods
    • Inventory: current (2002?) and projected, considering license extensions
    • Storage: wet and dry
  • SNF Characteristics, over time (given enrichment & burn-up)
    • U-235 content
    • Radioactivity (Ci/MTHM)
    • Surface dose rate (rem/hour)
    • Actinides (% weight or Ci)
    • Heat/thermal power (C; watts/MTHM)
  • High-level Defense Waste
    • Distribution (see BRC Fig 11) & centriods
    • Inventory: canisters
    • Storage (at SRS, not yet at Hanford)
    • Canister characteristics: weight, surface dose, etc.
  • Other SNF from the defense complex
    • Distribution (see BRC Fig 10) & centriods
    • Inventory
    • Storage, Dry