The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a report urging the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NCR) to develop a mechanism to ensure easy access to classified studies on the safety and security of spent nuclear fuel. Titled Spent Nuclear Fuel: Accumulating Quantities at Commercial Reactors Present Storage and Other Challenges, the report responds to a request issued by U.S. Representative Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, as well as several other congressmen.

According to the report, approximately 70,000 metric tons of spent fuel are kept at 75 sites in 33 states, with 74 percent stored in pools of water and 26 percent in dry storage casks. “The amount of spent fuel stored on-site at commercial nuclear reactors will continue to accumulate—increasing by about 2,000 metric tons per year and likely more than doubling to about 140,000 metric tons— before it can be moved off-site, because storage or disposal facilities may take decades to develop,” states GAO.

The report thus calls on NRC to develop a mechanism that allows individuals with appropriate clearances and a need to know to easily identify and access classified studies on the safety and security of spent fuel. “Because a decision on a permanent means of disposing of spent fuel may not be made for years, NRC officials and others may need to make interim decisions, which could be informed by past studies on stored spent fuel,” concludes the report. “These studies are likely to be relevant for decades and, therefore, continue to contribute to institutional knowledge and the ultimate decisions made concerning the handling and storage of spent nuclear fuel.”