|Dr. Conca reports that the DoE released a Draft Plan for a Defense Waste Repository for public comment on December 16, 2016. This would only be for nuclear waste generated from our production of nuclear weapons and includes both categories of weapons waste, high-level waste (HLW) and transuranic waste (TRU).|
And so begins our attempt to get back to science with respect to our nuclear waste disposal program. Meaning, let us find the right rock in the right place and a community willing to take it. Separating defense from commercial waste is reasonable as they are quite different in form.
Commercial nuclear waste is not actually a waste but a solid easily-handled material that can be reused in the future and is easily and safely stored in dry casks for over 160 years. Defense waste is actually waste, not useful at all, and is the goopy peanut-butter-like junk, as well as trash, sludge, cement and salt cake, that one associates with nasty waste types.
So dispose of the actual waste and keep the useful spent fuel until we can use it in our new reactors when they come online. Or we can also dispose of it in the future if we do not use it as it will be a lot cooler and cheaper to dispose.
Since Obama authorization in 2015, DOE has begun evaluating the possibility of a separate repository for defense waste and this plan is a concrete step forward. Although this is a draft plan, it describes the different components that need to gel in order to build a viable program, including technical, regulatory, risk management, cost, and schedule, all within the framework of a consent-based siting process for the communities, the tribes and the States.
Some communities are all for this plan. Carlsbad, New Mexico is already home to the only operating deep geologic nuclear waste repository, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), permitted for TRU defense nuclear waste. But WIPP was designed to take all nuclear waste and could easily accommodate all.