Nuclear Science:

Developing Technology to Reduce Radioactive Waste May Take Decades and Be Costly

RCED-94-16S: Published: Dec 1, 1993. Publicly Released: Dec 1, 1993.

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GAO provided a supplement to its report on the advantages, costs, estimated schedules, and technical feasibility of five U.S. radioactive waste transmutation concepts.

GAO found that: (1) the advanced liquid-metal/integral fast reactor (ALMR/IFR) concept is well advanced in comparison to the other proposed concepts, will remain relatively stable in geologic repositories, will cost up to $4.2 billion to develop, and will need to overcome many technological challenges for it to be successfully implemented; (2) the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) accelerator transmutation of waste (ATW) concept offers many size and safety advantages, will require three development phases totalling $2.72 billion, could begin operation in 2016, and will need additional research to overcome its major technical challenges; (3) the feasibility of the nonaqueous version of ATW cannot be determined, since it is still in the early stages of development; (4) the Phoenix transmutation concept offers substantial capacity and energy generating advantages and will cost up to $20 billion to develop, take up to 20 years to implement, and will not transmute as much nuclear waste as other concepts; (5) the particle-bed reactor nuclear waste burner concept offers cost, capacity, and safety advantages, will cost under $2 billion to develop, will require 16 years to implement, and will need to be demonstrated, since it is only in its conceptual stage; and (6) the DOE clean-use of reactor concept is in the early stages of development and will transmute and dispose of nuclear waste more rapidly than the other concepts, but it will need to demonstrate that its benefits outweigh its significant cost and technical risks.

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