December 23, 2008
The Honorable Senator Harry Reid
528 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Reid;
Since retiring as Deputy Director of the Office of Nuclear Energy in the Department of Energy (DOE), I have continued to have high interest in the progress of nuclear power both in the U.S. and internationally. It is disappointing to see another 8 years go by without addressing the real impediment to expanded use of nuclear power. The decision to treat Light Water Reactor (LWR) spent fuel as waste with Yucca Mountain designated as the sole repository is contrary to nuclear security, sound environmental planning, and economics.
We have already demonstrated the technology to treat LWR spent fuel to extract usable material and make a waste package that is not a terrorist target and can be stored shallow burial or above ground. Rather than be faced with high level and volatile radioactive materials for thousands of years, the treatment of LWR fuel reduces the storage time to less than 500 years with the radiation fixed in solid materials. This attribute provides the opportunity to use multiple government sites to treat LWR fuel and store the waste without requiring the currently defined Yucca Mountain project.
The energy content contained in LWR spent fuel and depleted uranium resulting from weapons production and enriched LWR new fuel production exceeds all the known oil reserves in the world. In my judgment, this available resource must play a major role in the future stability of our planet. At a time when this nation needs manufacturing and construction jobs, revitalization of the moribund U.S. nuclear industry would seem imperative.
DOE sites e.g. Savannah River, Idaho, Los Alamos, Sandia, Nevada, Oak Ridge are all good candidates for location of the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) facilities necessary to treat the LWR spent fuel. The cost of IFR complex should be the less than $2 billion with annual operating cost in the range of $ 100 million per year. All of the operating costs and some of the initial capitals will be offset by the sale of steam to the private sector and the revenue for accepting the spent fuel from the private sector. This initiative would require a partnership between government and industry with the benefactors being the taxpayers in terms of reasonable electricity rates and high level radioactive storage rates.
This initiative that would have a very positive impact on job creation and would be sustainable and growing as the private sector begins to place new orders for nuclear plants. Advanced LWR designs have already been approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission through an earlier government/ private sector partnership.
I and many others interested in this topic are ready to move forward on this critical endeavor and are prepared to assist. Best wishes for the holidays and for the success of the new Administration and the Congress.
205 W. 2nd Street
Frederick, Maryland 21701
cc. The Honorable Senator John McCain
cc. The Honorable Senator Jeff Bingaman
cc. The Honorable Congressman Roscoe Bartlett
cc. The Honorable Senator Barbara Mikulski