Country profile: United States

Summary figures for 2013

The following information is from the NEA publication Nuclear Energy Data, the annual compilation of official statistics and country reports on nuclear energy in OECD member countries.

Country
Number of nuclear power plants connected to the grid
Nuclear electricity generation
(net TWh) 2013
Nuclear percentage of total electricity supply
United States
100
789.0
*
19.4
 
OECD America
121
897.4
18.0
 
OECD Total
325
1 883.2
18.6
 

* Provisional data

Country report

The nuclear power industry in the United States is the largest in the world, with 100 operating commercial nuclear reactors. Many services and supplies to the US nuclear power industry are imported. As of 31 December 2013, installed nuclear capacity in the United States totalled 99.1 GWe (net). Data are preliminary and include both electric power sector and commercial and industrial end-users of electricity. The nuclear share of total capacity in the United States was 9% in 2013.

Nuclear power generation

In 2013, total electricity generation in the United States was 4 059 net terawatt hours (TWh), with nuclear power plants generating 789 net TWh, according to preliminary US Energy Information Administration (EIA) data. Data include both electric power sector and commercial and industrial end-users of electricity. Nuclear generation comprised approximately 19% of total generation in the United States.

The nuclear share of total generation has remained relatively constant over the years despite a decrease in the total number of reactors; this is largely the result of performance improvements.

Status of the nuclear power programme

The following sections describe progress made during 2013 in the US nuclear power programme.

Early site permit (ESP) applications

Independent of an application for a construction permit (10 CFR Part 50) or a combined licence (10 CFR Part 52), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) may approve one or more sites for a nuclear power plant. An ESP is remains in effect for 10 to 20 years and can be renewed for an additional 10 to 20 years. As of 31 December 2013, NRC had issued ESPs for four sites. NRC did not issue any new ESPs in 2013 or receive any new applications. During 2013, one ESP application was under review.

Combined licence application

Under current licensing regulations, NRC may issue a combined licence (COL) for construction and operation. In the past, separate construction permits and operating licences were issued. When the applicant uses an NRC-certified design, safety issues related to the design have already been resolved and the focus of the licensing review is the quality of reactor construction. A COL is valid for 40 years and may be extended for an additional 20 years. A total of eighteen COL applications were filed between 2007 and 2009; no applications for COLs have been filed since 2009. As of 31 December 2013: one COL was withdrawn (Victoria County Station, units 1 and 2), six COLs were suspended, nine COLs were under active review and two COLs were issued. On 9 February 2012, NRC voted to approve Southern Nuclear Operating Company's COL to build two new Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, Vogtle units 3 and 4, near Augusta, Georgia. On 30 March 2012, NRC voted to approve South Carolina Electric & Gas Company's COL to build two new Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, Virgil C. Summer units 2 and 3, near Columbia, South Carolina. The Vogtle and Virgil C. Summer units are the first to be constructed in the United States in over 30 years. As of 31 December 2013, all four units are under construction. Although under review, NRC may not approve further COLs pending the resolution of the Waste Confidence Rule in October 2014; the Waste Confidence Rule is described in more detail below.

Design certifications for new reactors

Under current licensing regulations, an applicant who seeks to build a new reactor can use an off-the-shelf reactor design that has been previously approved and certified by NRC. The streamlined process encourages standard or pre-approved reactor designs. Issuance of a design certification is independent of applications for a construction permit or an operating licence. Design certifications are valid for 15 years and can be renewed for an additional 10 to 15 years. As of 31 December 2013, NRC had issued certifications for four designs, including the Westinghouse AP1000 and the General Electric advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR). In addition to several amendments to previously certified designs, NRC is currently reviewing the applications for three additional design certifications, including the US advanced pressurised water reactor (US-APWR), the US evolutionary power reactor (US-EPR) and the economic simplified boiling water reactor (ESBWR).

Small modular reactors (SMRs)

SMRs are small enough to be fabricated in factories and can be shipped to sites via barge, rail or truck. SMRs have a projected construction period of three years. These factors may reduce both capital costs and construction times, potentially reducing the financial risk associated with larger nuclear investments. In March 2012, US Department of Energy (DOE) announced its intention to provide USD 452 million in funding to assist in the initial development of SMR technology that has the potential to be licensed by NRC and to achieve commercial operation by 2025. In November 2012, DOE announced the selection of Babcock & Wilcox, in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and Bechtel International, to cost share the work to prepare a licence application for up to four SMRs at TVA's Clinch River site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In December 2013, DOE announced the selection of NuScale Power, LLC as the recipient of the second award; the project will be based in Oregon.

Licence renewal

NRC has the authority to issue initial operating licences for commercial nuclear power plants for a period of 40 years. The decision to apply for an operating licence renewal is made by nuclear power plant owners, and it is typically based on economics and the ability to meet NRC requirements. Operating licences are renewed by NRC for a period of 20 years. NRC regulations do not limit the number of licence renewals a nuclear power plant may be granted. The nuclear power industry is preparing applications for licence renewals that would allow continued operation beyond 60 years, i.e. second or subsequent licence renewals; however, applications for second or subsequent licence renewals are not expected in the near future. As of 31 December 2013, NRC has granted licence renewals to 72 of the 100 operating reactors in the United States. NRC is currently reviewing licence renewal applications for 18 reactors to operate for 60 years and expects to receive applications from 9 more reactors between 2014 and 2018. Although under review, NRC may not approve further licence renewals prior to the expected resolution of the Waste Confidence issue in October 2014. As a result, no new licence renewals were issued by NRC in 2013. The Waste Confidence issue is described in more detail below.

Resumed construction

In 1988, TVA halted construction on Watts Bar unit 2 in Tennessee and Bellefonte units 1 and 2 in Alabama; the pressurised water reactor units were approximately 80% and 55% complete, respectively. Construction resumed on Watts Bar unit 2 in 2007 and the 1 218 MWe reactor is expected to be operational in late 2015. In August 2011, TVA decided to complete construction of Bellefonte units 1 and 2; however, construction at Bellefonte units 1 and 2 has been deferred until the conclusion of work at Watts Bar unit 2.

Waste Confidence Rule

In order for NRC to continue to issue new COLs and renew existing operating licences, the Waste Confidence issue must be resolved. In October 1979, NRC initiated a rulemaking process known as the Waste Confidence Rule. Prior to its original rulemaking, NRC, as a matter of policy, stated that it "would not continue to license reactors if it did not have reasonable confidence that the wastes can and will in due course be disposed of safely." On 31 August 1984, NRC issued the Waste Confidence Rule. Waste confidence is defined by NRC as a finding that used nuclear fuel (UNF) can be safely stored at reactor sites for decades beyond the licensed operating life of a reactor without significant environmental effects. It enables NRC to license reactors or renew their licences without examining the effects of extended waste storage for each individual site pending ultimate disposal.

In December 2010, with the termination of the repository programme at Yucca Mountain, the Waste Confidence Rule was amended to state that UNF could be stored safely at reactor sites for 60 years following reactor shutdown. In June 2012, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down NRC's 2010 amendment of the Waste Confidence Rule and stated that NRC should have analysed the environmental consequences of never building a permanent waste repository and that the discussion of potential spent fuel pool leaks or fires was inadequate.

NRC issued an order in August 2012 that suspended actions related to issuing operating licences and licence renewals. NRC is currently analysing the potential impacts on licensing reviews and developing a proposed path forward to meet the Court's requirements. Until NRC revises the Waste Confidence Rule, reactor operating licences and operating licence renewals will not be issued by NRC. Licensing reviews and proceedings will continue; however, Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) hearings are suspended pending further NRC guidance. ASLB is the independent, trial-level adjudicatory body of NRC. It conducts public hearings on contested issues related to, among other things, nuclear reactor licensing, thereby affording the public an opportunity to challenge proposed licensing. NRC expects to issue a revised Waste Confidence Rule in October 2014.

Power uprates

Power uprates are implemented to increase reactor capacity by increasing the maximum power level at which a nuclear reactor may operate. During 2013, NRC approved power uprates for McGuire 1 and 2 (North Carolina) and Monticello (Minnesota). During the first two months of 2014, NRC approved power uprates for Braidwood 1 and 2 (Illinois), Byron 1 and 2 (Illinois), and Fermi 2 (Ohio). As of March 2014, NRC had approved 154 power uprates, which could add about 7 035 MWe to the US nuclear generating capacity, once implemented. Not all approved uprates have been implemented at US reactors. Uprates are under review and pending approval for eight reactors, totalling nearly 827 MWe. In addition to those already under review, NRC expects to receive an additional three requests for power uprates between 2014 and 2017, totalling nearly 58 MWe. Approval of uprates by NRC is not affected by the pending resolution of the Waste Confidence issue.

Retirements

In 2013, Crystal River 3 (Florida), San Onofre 2 and 3 (California) and Kewaunee (Wisconsin) were retired; the total retired capacity was nearly 3.7 GWe. Announced early retirements include the 620 MWe Vermont Yankee plant (Vermont) at the end of 2014 and the 614 MWe Oyster Creek plant (New Jersey) in 2019. Both Oyster Creek and Vermont Yankee were issued licence renewals that would have permitted continued operation until 2029 and 2032, respectively.

United States response to the accident at Fukushima Daiichi

Since the March 2011 accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the NRC and the US nuclear industry have been working to address issues related to the accident. NRC and the US nuclear industry initiated an immediate co-ordinated response to the accident, as well as long-term actions intended to assure the safety of operating and planned reactors in the United States.

NRC conducted a systematic and methodical review of its own processes and regulations in light of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi. In July 2011, NRC's Near-Term Task Force released its report, Recommendations for Enhancing Reactor Safety in the 21st Century. The report contains 12 recommendations, including both short- and long-term actions for consideration, and prioritises the implementation of the recommendations. In order to address the short-term recommendations, NRC issued three orders in March 2012 that require nuclear power plants to implement measures related to lessons learnt from the Fukushima Daiichi accident, as follows:

NRC stated that, in all cases, the existing fleet of reactors can continue operating safely while implementing the orders. The orders were effective immediately and included timetables for responses and actions.

In the three orders listed above, NRC required an integrated plan to be submitted by February 2013, with initial status reports due in 60 days. NRC specified that operating reactors must complete modifications within two refuelling cycles after submitting an integrated plan, or by the end of 2016, whichever comes first. Any reactor with a construction permit issued under 10 CFR Part 50 (e.g. Watts Bar unit 2) was required to comply with the above orders prior to receiving an operating licence. Any reactor issued a COL under 10 CFR Part 52 (i.e. Vogtle units 3 and 4 and Summer units 2 and 3) was required to implement all requirements in the orders before the initial fuel loading. Compliance assessments are underway at nuclear power plants. The requirements of the orders remain in place until superseded by other orders or rulemaking. As discussed below, NRC is considering or has initiated rulemaking on several topics, and some of the dates established in the original orders have been modified.

In November 2012, as an addition to the original order issued to address more robust containment venting systems, NRC began considering whether to propose a rule that would require containment venting systems to filter all releases during an accident for boiling water reactors with Mark I and Mark II containments. If NRC decides to pursue such a rulemaking, a final rule could be issued in 2017.

Utilities continue to provide documentation to NRC on equipment procured to respond to a prolonged loss of power at a reactor (station blackout) as well as spent fuel pool water level monitoring instrumentation. In March 2013, NRC decided to proceed with a rulemaking to address station blackout mitigation. In its July 2013 Regulatory Basis Document, NRC noted: "One dual-unit site estimated that the Order may cost approximately USD 25 million, while a second dual-unit site estimated the cost at USD 43 million." The final rule is scheduled for issuance by December 2016.

By June 2013, two detailed inspections (or "walkdowns") had been completed at each reactor to evaluate potential seismic and flooding hazards. NRC is in the process of auditing the results of the walkdowns. All flooding re-evaluations are due to NRC by March 2015. NRC will review the analyses and issue a safety assessment for each site. For nuclear power plants requiring a seismic risk analysis, NRC performed a prioritisation of plants in the Central and Eastern United States (CEUS) and the Western United States (WUS). Plants in more seismically active WUS and CEUS locations will complete risk evaluations by June 2017, and those in less active CEUS locations will complete risk evaluations by December 2019.

In November 2013, NRC announced proposed rulemaking language to "... strengthen and integrate onsite emergency response capabilities." The final rule, which is likely to be issued in March 2016, is expected to address accident mitigation strategies; integration of accident mitigation procedures; identification of command and control roles during an accident; conduct of drills and exercises; training; and include severe accident situations in examinations for reactor operators. In its comments on NRC's draft regulatory basis, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) estimated a cost of USD 17 million for the nuclear fleet, or USD 275 000 per unit, to develop and implement new training plans. NEI also estimated increased training costs of USD 250 000 per site per year and annual severe accident drill costs of USD 250 000 per site.

In addition to NRC actions described above, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) and NEI formed a Fukushima Response Steering Committee to integrate and co-ordinate the industry's response to the accident. In February 2012, the steering committee jointly released a report, The Way Forward: US Industry Leadership in Response to Events at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which discusses activities to oversee and co-ordinate responses to emergencies. INPO prepared a detailed report on post-accident events at Fukushima Daiichi and on 11 November 2011, the detailed report was provided to the US Congress, NRC and the US nuclear industry.

The nuclear industry, through NEI, developed its FLEX strategy as a comprehensive, flexible and integrated plan to mitigate the effects of severe natural phenomena and to take steps to achieve safety benefits quickly. The FLEX approach implemented in 2012 was informed by the industry's response to the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. Two regional response centres will be located near Memphis, Tennessee and Phoenix, Arizona. From those regional response centres, critical emergency equipment can be delivered to nuclear power plants within 24 hours. The regional response centres are planned to be fully operational by August 2014.

In addition to activities that focus on reactors and the utilities that operate them, NRC has spent more than two years evaluating how best to respond to the first of the 12 recommendations made in the July 2011 Near-Term Task Force Review of Insights from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Accident, which recommended establishment of a "logical, systematic, and coherent regulatory framework for adequate protection that appropriately balances defence-in-depth and risk considerations." Defence-in-depth is a layered approach to safety that involves the use of multiple redundant and independent safety systems. NRC's December 2013 evaluation of this recommendation was discussed publicly in January 2014 and included proposed actions on a policy statement that would detail, among other things, the decision criteria for ensuring adequate defence-in-depth. The proposed actions also identify the need to clarify the role of voluntary industry initiatives in the NRC regulatory process.

Fuel cycle

All activities of the commercial nuclear fuel cycle are conducted in the United States, except reprocessing. Spent fuel reprocessing for waste management in the United States has been discouraged by public policy and the once-through fuel cycle is the present policy along with an active research and development programme on advanced fuel cycle alternatives. Each fuel cycle stage is subject to competition and supply from international sources, which in many cases dominate the industry segment. At present, the US nuclear fuel supply is highly dependent on imports for mined uranium concentrates, uranium conversion and enrichment. Virtually all fuel fabrication requirements are met by domestic sources. EIA publishes data on the nuclear fuel cycle in its Domestic Uranium Production Report and its Uranium Marketing Annual Report.

Uranium requirements

Annual uranium requirements for the United States for the period 2013 to 2035 are projected to increase from 17 649 tU in 2013 to as much as 20 762 tU in 2035 (high nuclear case). This projected increase is based on the possibility that some new nuclear power plants may apply for and receive licence renewals to operate for an 80-year extended life cycle as well as the deployment of new nuclear technology.

Uranium production

According to EIA's 2013 Domestic Uranium Production Report, US uranium mines produced 1 761 tU in 2013, 6% more than in 2012. Three underground mines produced uranium ore during 2013, three less than during 2012. Additionally, seven in situ leach (ISL) mining operations produced solutions containing uranium in 2013, two more than in 2012. Overall, there were ten mines that operated during part or all of 2013.

Total production of US uranium concentrate in 2013 was 1 792 tU, 12% more than in 2012, from seven facilities: one mill in Utah (White Mesa Mill) and six ISL plants. The Lost Creek Project started producing in 2013. Nebraska, Texas, and Wyoming produced uranium concentrate at the six ISL plants in 2013. Total shipments of uranium concentrate from US mill and ISL plants were 1 791 tU in 2013, 19% more than in 2012. NRC is currently reviewing nine applications for new facilities, expansions, or renewals and anticipates receiving eighteen additional applications between 2013 and 2014.

Uranium conversion

The United States has one uranium conversion plant operated by ConverDyn, Inc., located at Metropolis, Illinois. During a mid-2012 annual maintenance outage, NRC conducted a post-Fukushima Daiichi safety inspection of this facility. Necessary upgrades were made to address such issues as seismic hardening and emergency planning. The facility restarted in July 2013 and is expected to reach full production in 2014. The ConverDyn facility has a nameplate production capacity of approximately 15 000 metric tons per year of uranium hexafluoride (UF6). In addition to domestic capability, Canada is the major source of concentrate imports, though supplies have also come from Australia, the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Namibia and a few other countries.

Uranium enrichment

Diffusion

In 1993, the uranium enrichment business in the United States was transferred from DOE to a government-owned company, the US Enrichment Corporation Inc. (USEC). USEC Inc. was created in 1992 under the Energy Policy Act (EPACT1992) to make the United States more competitive in the global enrichment industry. USEC Inc. was privatised in 1998 via an initial public offering of common stock. USEC Inc. operated the gaseous diffusion enrichment facility (leased from DOE) in Paducah, Kentucky until it closed in May 2013, following the re-enrichment of nearly 9 000 metric tons of high-assay tails. The re-enriched uranium was used to fabricate fuel for Energy Northwest and TVA reactors. The Paducah plant was the last gaseous diffusion enrichment facility in the world.

Operations at a second facility at Portsmouth, Ohio were previously terminated in 2001. However, nearly 115 000 metric tons of depleted uranium hexafluoride remain at the Portsmouth facility. In November 2013, DOE announced that it will open negotiations with Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) and AREVA for the sale of the depleted uranium hexafluoride inventory and processing of off-specification uranium hexafluoride as blend stock for domestic nuclear fuel.

Megatons to Megawatts

In February 1993, the Russian Federation and the United States signed a 20-year, government-to-government agreement for the conversion of 500 metric tons of Russian highly enriched uranium from nuclear warheads to low-enriched uranium to fuel US nuclear reactors. The agreement became known as the Megatons to Megawatts™ programme. Over the life of the Megatons to Megawatts programme, the low-enriched uranium produced under the agreement provided about one-third of the enrichment services needed to fabricate fuel for US nuclear reactors. The programme ended in December 2013.

Under the agreement, USEC Inc. and the Russian Federation designated Techsnabexport (TENEX) to implement the programme. The terms of the agreement required that Russian highly enriched uranium be diluted or down blended to become low-enriched uranium in the Russian Federation and then shipped to the United States.

Low-enriched uranium is used to fabricate fuel for US reactors. Once the United States received the low-enriched uranium, the Russian Federation was paid for the work that was required to dilute or blend down the highly enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium, which is measured in separative work units (SWU). The Russian Federation also received an equal amount of natural (unenriched) uranium.

In addition to the low-enriched uranium originating from the Megatons to Megawatts programme, enrichment services were also provided by USEC Inc.'s Gaseous Diffusion Plant, URENCO USA's Gas Centrifuge Plant and various foreign countries.

Although the Megatons to Megawatts programme expired in December 2013, USEC Inc. signed a ten-year contract with TENEX in March 2011 to supply commercial-origin Russian low-enriched uranium to replace some of the material provided by the Megatons to Megawatts programme. Deliveries under this contract began in 2013 and are slated to continue through 2022. The contract also includes an option to double the amount of material purchased.

As under the Megatons to Megawatts programme, USEC Inc. will pay TENEX the value of the work (measured in SWU) needed to create the low-enriched uranium and deliver an equal amount of natural (unenriched) uranium to TENEX. The new supply of low-enriched uranium from TENEX will gradually increase until 2015, when it reaches about half of the annual amount supplied under the Megatons to Megawatts programme. The new contract will provide low-enriched uranium that can be used to fabricate fuel for US reactors while new US enrichment facilities are licensed, constructed and operated to produce US-origin low-enriched uranium.

Centrifuge

Centrifuge enrichment projects are in varying stages of completion:

Laser

The operating licence application for GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) in Wilmington, North Carolina was issued by NRC in September 2012; the licensed capacity of the facility is 6 million SWU per year. A commercialisation decision must still be made by GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy.

In August 2013, GLE proposed to DOE that it license, construct and operate a second laser enrichment facility at DOE’s Paducah site to process the depleted uranium hexafluoride inventory at the site. The GLE proposal included the potential lease or use of existing Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant facilities, infrastructure and utilities. In November 2013, DOE announced that it will open negotiations with GLE and GLE informed NRC in January 2014 that it would likely apply for an operating licence for the laser enrichment facility at Paducah in late 2014.

Summary

Most enrichment facilities in the United States are planning to be fully operational in the 2015 to 2022 timeframe, though schedules remain uncertain. In the interim, in addition to enrichment services provided in the United States, enrichment services will continue to be imported from facilities in France, Germany, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

Re-enriched tails

DOE and the Bonneville Power Administration initiated a pilot project to re-enrich a portion of DOE’s tails inventory. This project produced approximately 1 940 tonnes of low-enriched uranium between 2005 and 2006 for use by Energy Northwest’s 1 190 MWe Columbia Generating Station between 2007 and 2015. In mid-2012, Energy Northwest and USEC, in conjunction with DOE, developed a new plan to re-enrich a portion of DOE’s high-assay tails. The resulting 482 tonnes of low-enriched uranium will be used to fuel Energy Northwest’s Columbia Generating Station and Energy Northwest will provide some low-enriched uranium to TVA starting in 2015.

Fuel fabrication

Three companies fabricate nuclear fuel in the United States for light water reactors: Westinghouse Electric Co. in Columbia (South Carolina); Global Nuclear Fuels-Americas Ltd in Wilmington (North Carolina); and AREVA NP Inc. in Richland (Washington). In March 2011, AREVA NP Inc. concluded all fuel fabrication activities at its Lynchburg facility (Virginia), following consolidation of its operations in Richland, Washington. Mixed oxide fuel is planned to be fabricated at DOE’s Savannah River site in South Carolina, beginning in 2019, using surplus military plutonium to fabricate fuel for commercial reactors. In February 2011, TVA and AREVA signed a letter of intent to begin evaluating the use of mixed oxide fuel at TVA’s Sequoyah and Browns Ferry plants; as of December 2013, no decision had been made.

Nuclear waste management

Commercial nuclear power reactors currently store most of their UNF on-site at the nuclear plant, although a small amount has been shipped to off-site facilities. EIA estimates that in 2013 US reactors discharged approximately 2 198 tHM (tonnes heavy metal), and the UNF inventory in the United States was approximately 71 904 tHM as of 31 December 2013.

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) of 1982, as amended in 1987, provides for the siting, construction and operation of a deep geologic repository for disposal of UNF and high-level waste (HLW). The amendments in 1987 directed DOE to focus solely on Yucca Mountain as the future site of a geologic repository. The NWPA limits the emplacement of waste at the geologic repository to 70 000 metric tHM. UNF and HLW disposed of at the repository were expected to include about 63 000 tHM of commercial UNF, about 2 333 tHM of DOE UNF and the equivalent of about 4 667 tHM (or tHM-equivalent) of DOE HLW from defence-related activities.

In 2002, DOE determined that the Yucca Mountain site would be suitable for a repository, and in July 2002, the President and Congress accepted that recommendation and directed that DOE submit a licence application to NRC. In June 2008, DOE submitted a licence application to NRC to receive authorisation to begin construction of a repository at Yucca Mountain, and in September 2008, NRC formally docketed the application.

President Obama announced in March 2009 that the proposed permanent repository at Yucca Mountain was no longer an option and that a blue-ribbon commission, made up of 15 members who have a range of expertise and experience in nuclear issues, including scientists, industry representatives and respected former elected officials, would be created to evaluate alternatives to Yucca Mountain. In January 2012, the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (BRC) issued its final report.

In January 2013, the Administration released its Strategy for the Management and Disposal of Used Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste, which presents a response to the final report and recommendations made by the BRC. Essentially, it provides ". . . a framework for moving toward a sustainable programme to deploy an integrated system capable of transporting, storing and disposing of used nuclear fuel and HLW from civilian nuclear power generation, defence, national security and other activities."

The strategy also serves as a statement of administration policy regarding the importance of addressing the disposition of UNF and HLW, lays out the overall design of a system to address that issue and outlines the reforms needed to implement such a system. Finally, the strategy represents an initial basis for discussions among the administration, Congress and other stakeholders on a sustainable path forward for disposal of nuclear waste.

The administration’s strategy endorses the key principles that underpin the BRC’s recommendations. The administration fully agrees with the BRC that a consent-based siting process is critical to future success. As presented in the strategy, with the appropriate authorisations from Congress, the Administration currently plans to implement a programme over the next ten years that:

In August 2013, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that NRC must continue its review of the Yucca Mountain licence application. In November 2013, the NRC Commissioners ordered NRC staff to complete and publish a safety evaluation report for the proposed Yucca Mountain repository. NRC also requested that DOE prepare a supplement environmental impact statement to support NRC’s environmental review of the licence application.

Commercial nuclear power reactors currently store most of their UNF on-site at the nuclear plant, although a small amount has been shipped to off-site facilities.

Legislation

From a legislative perspective, the EPACT2005 included the renewal of the Price-Anderson Act and incentives for building the first advanced nuclear power plants. Incentives included loan guarantees, production tax credits and standby support insurance related to regulatory delays. The incentives are at various stages of development. Incentives included:

Source: Nuclear Energy Data 2014

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Last reviewed: 19 December 2014