Monitored Retrievable Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel
RCED-86-104FS, May 8, 1986
Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Energy's (DOE) program for monitored retrievable storage (MRS) of spent nuclear fuel, including: (1) the purpose of the MRS program; (2) Tennessee's role in the development of the DOE MRS proposal and its role in future MRS activities; (3) the potential benefits and disadvantages of the MRS program; (4) the impact of siting an MRS facility in Tennessee; and (5) the results of a survey of utilities affected by DOE nuclear waste management activities.
GAO found that: (1) the primary purpose of the MRS program is to develop a facility to receive and prepare spent nuclear fuel for shipment to a permanent geological repository; (2) DOE identified three sites in Tennessee as acceptable for an MRS facility and chose one site as most preferable; (3) Tennessee sued DOE, alleging that DOE failed to timely consult with it about the site selection; (4) the court enjoined DOE from making any MRS proposal to Congress that was based on information DOE obtained before it consulted with Tennessee; and (5) the injunction will remain effective until a DOE appeal has been resolved. GAO also found that an MRS facility would: (1) improve the development of nuclear waste management by allowing DOE to begin regulatory activities earlier; (2) improve the reliability, flexibility, and efficiency of DOE waste management; (3) improve waste transportation operations; (4) increase system costs and regulatory requirements; (5) increase the complexity of the system and geographically redistribute waste shipments; (6) significantly increase the Nuclear Waste Fund's short-term cash requirements; and (7) have significant local economic impacts, but minimal environmental impacts. GAO also found that: (1) most of the utilities it surveyed believe that they can provide for their spent-fuel storage needs until DOE makes a repository available, unless the repository program falls seriously behind schedule; and (2) while more utilities support an MRS facility than oppose one, more utilities would prefer a system with only a geological repository.