From: NAC International
Subject: Consent Based Siting Process Feedback
Dear Sir/Madam :
NAC International Inc. (NAC) is a leading nuclear fuel cycle consulting and technology company with key technical capabilities in nuclear fuel transportation and storage. As such, we have followed the Department of Energy’s nuclear waste management efforts with significant interest. NAC was previously awarded a contract to design and license one of the transportation aging and disposal canister designs that DOE sought for integrating spent fuel storage when the Yucca Mountain Program was still active. NAC has also supplied spent fuel storage systems to nuclear facilities throughout the U.S., including five (5) sites with decommissioned nuclear power plants. New efforts by DOE to develop consolidated storage capability through a consent based siting process have also attracted our interest.
DOE posed questions through its Notice Of Invitation For Public Comment (IPC) published in the Federal Register Notice on December 23·2015 with the acceptance of comments extended to a July 31, 2016 deadline stated on DOE’s Nuclear Energy Website. NAC’s response to these questions is attached to this letter.
The IPC posed five questions centered on a public approach to site development. That is a very constrained approach to used fuel management, and may not provide the best options for moving forward. The stated goals in DOE’ s consent based siting process can also be met through private/public partnerships that are developed outside of DOE’s outreach efforts. These private/public partnerships can deliver the same level of the consent of the fully public process, with the added benefit of strong private sector project management for implementation. This combination of private and public interests offers meaningful cost and schedule benefits for the federal government and should not be excluded from the Department’s contracting considerations. We have answered the questions posed in the Federal Register Notice, but our answers are groomed to accommodate the private/public partnership approach that was not part of DOE’s initial outreach efforts.
We hope you consider these comments in the spirit of our combined national interests to manage used nuclear fuel efficiently as well as safely.
Kent Cole, CEO and President NAC International
- How can the Department ensure that the process for selecting a site is fair?
One key element of an appropriate site selection is to ensure the process and selection criteria are adaptable and flexible to the purpose of the site. For instance, a process for the selection of an interim storage site may be very different from the process used to select a perma nent disposal site, especially where the latter requires extraord inary geologic characteristics and permanency. Also, interim storage facilities are functioni ng safely and securely at 61 operating nuclear power plant sites and at 11sites with decommissioned nuclear power plants. Thus,
interim storage has a defined technology baseline that has been licensed and proven under nationally applicable regulations. On the other hand, a U.S. repository has not yet been licensed and while the engineering principles and safeguards for Yucca Mountain appear sound, the technology has not yet been deployed. A new repository site (with different geology) will
require new licensing regulations, significant characterization and a repository design that is not yet known. This future work, the technology and regulatory unknowns translate into a process of informed consent that is lengthy and iterative. Certainly, a site selection process (steps,durations, iterations, fund i ng) would differ significantly based on factors such as these.
Of course, fairness is a vital criteria in constructing a selection process, but of equal import is a process that is effective (leads to selection of best site), straight forward and an efficient use of taxpayer money.
Today there are communities that have teamed with members of private industry that are interested i n hosting an interim storage site. These industry/comm unity partnerships have local support and are developing state and Congressional support with the goal of the industry partner entering into a contract with the federal government to store spent fuel.
The DOE should work directly with these interested community/industry partners, to potentially shorten the site selection process thereby saving millions of taxpayer dollars and moving a step closer to solving a long-time national problem.
The DOE should begi n by clearly and comprehensively articulati ng its expectations regarding the role that consolidated interim storage will play in an integrated spent fuel and waste management program, so that communities and states are able to fully and appropriately assess the costs and benefits of that program for their citizens. DOE should also seek legislative authority, as appropriate, to secure the legal framework that would allow for private sector engagement in the full development of a CIS project.
The Department should then encourage competition and ultimately select a site (or sites) for a CIS project based on economic benefit, quality, schedule, commu nity support and safety among other factors. In pursuit of “fairness”, the Department should not attempt to bias the site selection process with factors other than the ones formally identified in the selection process.
In constructing evaluation criteria, DOE should recognize the benefit of sites in or near communities that already manage or process radioactive materials and/or wastes. Populations surrounding these sites are more informed about the risks and benefits of such work and are less likely to experience radical changes in their level of support over time. Selecting such a site would not add appreciably to community costs or risk because similar work is already being done nearby.
The Department has acquisition procedures that enable it to conduct a Sources Sought inquiry to determine if an adequate number of interested and qualified bidders
(communities/sites/consorti ums) exist to conduct a competition. We encourage the Department to promptly utilize this tool to assess the competitive landscape.
- What models and experience should the Department use in designing the process?
A “one size fits all” approach to consent based siting will not be successful. It needs to be flexible and adaptable. Each state, tribal government and local community should be allowed to define what consent means to them and how that consent is expressed. The federal government’s definition must be broad enough to allow for the indivi dual preferences of the consenting community. The real challenge may be in blending the consent based process with the technical, schedule and cost selection criteria that will guide the federal contracting process. Developing these contract selection criteria in advance so they can be shared with prospective host
communities and private/public partnerships would be very beneficial. These contracting criteria may speed decisions on whether to participate in the selection process or not. Given the significant costs associated with not taking used fuel from power plants (especially shutdown sites), accelerated development of consolidated storage capability should be a primary consideration.
3. Who should be involved in the process for selecting a site, and what is their role?
A successful siting process for anything begins with a local community. If a local commu nity has decided to move forward as a host site then the county and ultimately the state must be supportive.
The process will be different in each state and community according to their own laws, customs, and governance relationships.
Once local, county and state support is assured, the remaining selection decisions reside in Washington, and they include:
- a license from the NRC, with whom we are in active pre-application discussions;
- a clear statement of authority that allows the DOE to contract with private companies as well as public entities to store spent fuel. Legal access to the N uclear Waste Fund to pay for these contracts; and
- the active engagement of the DOE to take advantage of the progress others have made to garner consent for a site to conduct the storage
- What information and resources do you think would facilitate your participation?
Any community or private/publ ic partnershi p considering pa rticipation needs to understand the DO E’s concept of the facili ty scope of operations, du ration of licensu re, and the construct and frequency of shipments to the site. The Depa rtment should actively pu rsue Congressional support through budget requests that can be supported withi n the confines of the existing NWPA as outlined by the Blue Ribbon Commission. In addition, DO E should advocate for maximu m flexibility in contracting options to store nuclear wastes at an interim storage facility.
- What else should be considered?
Time is of the essence.
The federal government’s financial responsibility for continued storage of U N F at nuclear power plants is expanding rapidly. That rapid liability expansion is being driven by the unexpected early closure of large numbers of nuclear power plants. This new market trend brings new
u rgency for addressing the spent nuclear fuel management problem with consolidated storage. In order to benefit from the schedule and cost advantages offered by the industry/ community pa rtnerships the DOE must be prepared to advance its contracting schedules to minimize the government’s life cycle costs for used fuel ma nagement. The monies i n the N uclear waste Fund come with an obligation to manage them efficiently. Meeting that obligation requires a more aggressive used fuel management contracting approach than DOE has considered previously. If these industry/commu nity partnershi ps come to the point of a construction decision and the DOE and Congress have made no progress toward resolving the questions of contracting and funding, the private/pu blic partnership efforts will come to a halt. That outcome will cost the federal government an opportunity to make substantial progress on its spent fuel management
program and dramatically cut the flow of taxpayer monies to contract holders from the judgment fund. DO E could pu rsue more than one consolidated storage facility and thereby allow continued engagement with pu blic groups in parallel with accelerated private/pu blic pa rtnershi ps that are able to proceed expeditiously to site and operate a pilot consolidated storage facility for taking fuel from the multiple “stranded” sites around the country.