A March 11 letter shows where negotiations stalled out to ship spent nuclear fuel from an Illinois reactor to Idaho National Laboratory for research purposes.
U.S. Department of Energy officials and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden could not reach an agreement before a March 11 deadline that would have allowed the DOE to ship 25 fuel rods in June. Now, the soonest the DOE could ship the controversial radioactive material to Idaho is December, because of scheduling issues at Byron Nuclear Generating Station in Illinois.
The letter was sent from Wasden to Frank Marcinowski, DOE’s deputy assistant secretary for waste management. It detailed an emailed proposal Marcinowski made to Wasden the day before, and described why Wasden could not accept the proposal.
If Wasden would grant a waiver to allow the spent fuel, Marcinowski wrote in the email, the fuel would be shipped to INL this summer — but “the fuel rods will be kept intact until treatment of radioactive liquid waste stored in the Idaho tank farm facility commences.”
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Wasden has said the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit, a facility built to treat the radioactive liquid waste, must be operational before the spent fuel is allowed into the state. The start up of the facility, Wasden said, is important to getting DOE back into compliance with the 1995 Settlement Agreement, which laid out deadlines governing nuclear waste cleanup in the state.
Marcinowski’s proposal would have allowed the DOE to ship the fuel sooner, and hopefully begin research on the fuel sooner, with the hope that the problem-prone treatment facility is able to begin operations in the next couple months.
The DOE proposal may have helped avoid further setbacks for a lucrative INL research project that originally was scheduled to begin last year. The project, which involves foreign research partners, is tied to fuel recycling and the development of safeguard technologies for nuclear fuel cycles.
Marcinowski wrote that if it turned out treatment of the radioactive waste wasn’t able to begin by Dec. 31, 2018, “the 25 spent fuel rods will be removed from the State of Idaho within six months of that date.”