The U.S. Department of Energy (“DOE”) has published today on FederalRegister.Gov a request for information regarding private initiatives to create consolidated interim storage sites for the nation’s spent nuclear fuel and other high-level waste (“private storage”). The request for information itself can be found here on the DOE website, as well as through FederalRegister.Gov here. Responses can be submitted on FederalRegister.Gov, and are due January 27, 2017.

The request for information recognizes that while DOE is planning an integrated solution to dispose of spent nuclear fuel from the nation’s nuclear power plants, private initiatives to store this spent fuel in single, consolidations locations before a final disposal solution can be developed presents a new and potentially attractive opportunity. Currently the spent nuclear fuel produced by nuclear power plants sits on site at plants across the country, incurring maintenance costs and preventing those sites from being returned to greenfield after operation ceases.

The DOE request sets forth a number of questions it is seeking input on. In particular, the DOE is asking:

  • What factors should be considered as to whether private storage can provide a “workable solution” to our nation’s spent fuel storage needs?
  • How can private storage benefit local communities? Why are they better than government-owned sites?
  • What type of involvement should the federal government have with the private storage community?
  • What state, local, and tribal approvals and supporting agreements would be required?
  • How can the government help implement private storage options in a fair and transparent manner?

While recognizing the need for a final repository or reprocessing solution for the nation’s spent nuclear fuel, consolidated private storage sites, such as that proposed by Waste Control Specialists in Texas, present a way to safely bring together the spent fuel created across the country to one location. This will lower costs on the public, increase safety, and allow nuclear power operators to return their sites to greenfield after decommissioning.