Natural Resources and Environment:

DOE Needs To Evaluate Fully the Waste Management Effects of Extending the Useful Life of Nuclear Fuel

RCED-84-111: Published: Jan 27, 1984. Publicly Released: Feb 3, 1984.

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GAO determined whether the Department of Energy (DOE) needs to do more to evaluate the potential impact of extended nuclear fuel burnup under its program for accepting spent commercial nuclear fuel under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.

GAO found that, although DOE supports commercial utilities' creating their own storage programs which extend the useful life of nuclear fuel, it is uncertain whether the industry will pursue and develop such programs. GAO believes that DOE should continue to improve the spent fuel use and storage at commercial power plants. In fiscal year 1984, Congress appropriated $4.5 million dollars for DOE to continue its participation in the program.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should complete a full evaluation of the potential to extend fuel burnup and the effects on DOE efforts to subsequently manage the higher burnup fuel by considering the merits of continued government funding of the DOE extended fuel burnup program in terms of: (1) the potential budgetary costs; (2) the potential benefits and beneficiaries; and (3) the likelihood that the nuclear industry would continue extending fuel burnup.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should complete a full evaluation of the potential to extend fuel burnup and the effects on DOE efforts to subsequently manage the higher burnup fuel by quantifying, to the extent possible, the effect of increases in fuel burnup on its spent fuel acceptance schedule, and clearly identify the potential impact on its requirements for providing the necessary facilities and services to carry out the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The DOE reference-case schedule for acceptance of spent nuclear fule does not consider reduction in spent fule inventories from gradual implementation by utilities of extended burnup fule. GAO will review in future audits of the program the DOE stated intent to modify its planning base systems designs to accomodate extended burnup fuel.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should report the results of this evaluation to cognizant congressional committees: (1) for their consideration of the DOE Mission Plan for carrying out the Nuclear Waste Policy Act; and (2) as another factor for their fiscal year 1985 budget deliberations on whether to continue funding for the DOE extended burnup program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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