Storing Spent Fuel

Safe and Secure Used Fuel Management System

What you normally hear about as nuclear waste is actually the “used fuel” removed from a reactor, which still contains approximately 96 percent of the original fuel that can be recovered to produce new fuel. This used fuel is currently stored in pools of water or in robust containers on a concrete pad (dry cask storage).

All the used nuclear fuel produced by the nuclear energy industry in nearly 60 years—if stacked end to end—would cover an area the size of a football field to a depth of less than 10 yards. The NuScale power plant design includes a proven safe and secure used fuel management system.

Used fuel management, storage, and disposal are regulated by U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has responsibility for its ultimate disposal. In addition, recycling used fuel could significantly reduce the burden of mining and disposing of spent fuel, making our nuclear fuel cycle more sustainable.

Used Fuel Management at a NuScale Plant

NuScale reactor building and plant design incorporates a proven safe, secure and effective used fuel management system. A stainless steel lined concrete pool holds used fuel for at least 5 years under 60 feet of water. The used fuel is protected both by the ground and the Seismic Category 1 reinforced concrete reactor building designed to withstand an aircraft impact, and a variety of natural and man-made phenomena.

Used Fuel Storage and Disposal

After cooling in the spent fuel pool, spent fuel is placed into certified casks, steel containers with concrete shells, on site of the plant. The NRC Waste Confidence Rule states that this is a safe and acceptable way to store used fuel for an interim period at the plant up to 100 years. The NuScale’s standard facility design includes an area for the dry storage of all of the spent fuel for the 60-year life of the plant.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has responsibility for the final disposal of used fuel under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. Under the Act, the generators' of electricity from nuclear power must pay into a fund for the long term disposal of this used fuel; over $35 billion is currently in the Nuclear Waste Fund.

Used Fuel Recycling – A better option?

Recycling used fuel could significantly reduce the burden of mining and disposing of spent fuel, making our nuclear fuel cycle more sustainable and further reducing the already-low carbon total footprint of nuclear power.

Key Facts

  • 96 percent of the content of the used fuel is reusable energy
  • Recycling used fuel:
    • Saves 25 percent of natural uranium resources
    • Reduces the volume of high-level waste slated for disposal in a repository by 75 percent
    • Reduces the waste’s toxicity by about 90 percent

Source: AREVA

Recycled fuel, or mixed uranium-plutonium oxide (MOX) fuel, is a suitable fuel for the NuScale reactors. Recycling has been in successful use in several markets, such as France, for decades. Also, there are next generation designs that can utilize this used fuel in its reactors as a means to reduce the overall quantity.

Spent Fuel Pool