On the eve of what many in the commercial power industry are calling a “nuclear renaissance,” commercial nuclear power plants still face uncertainty from the U.S. Department of Energy as to what individual nuclear utilities are to do with their spent (or used) nuclear fuel. Having already missed its own legislatively mandated deadline to begin acceptance and long-term storage of SNF, the federal government recently caused further confusion when it announced that it will pursue alternatives to geologic storage, including reprocessing (or recycling) of SNF.
This ongoing lack of guidance or action on the part of the federal government continues to require commercial nuclear power plant owners across the country to build facilities to store SNF on their plant sites. In addition to having to bear the significant costs of onsite storage, the absence of a national strategy for the ultimate disposition of SNF has hindered utilities’ progress toward developing a new generation of nuclear plants. Of course, this uncertainty complicates decision-making at a time when demand for abundant, emission-free, competitively priced energy has become, for many, an urgent national concern.
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