Room at the Mountain
EPRI Analysis Finds Maximum Physical
Capacity of Yucca Mountain Geological Repository is 4-9 Times Current Limit
An EPRI report analyzing expanded capacity options at the proposed Yucca
Mountain geological repository for commercial spent nuclear fuel indicates that
the technical capacity is four to nine times the current legal limit. Such a
geological repository is one element of an integrated spent fuel management
approach – encompassing on-site storage, interim storage, long-term central
storage and possible reprocessing – designed to sustain long-term operation of
existing U.S. nuclear power plants and facilitate projected expansion of nuclear
Room at the Mountain (1015046), also provides preliminary cost
estimates for expanding Yucca Mountain. Increasing the capacity from its current
legal limit of 70,000 metric tons of heavy metals (MTHM) to 260,000 MTHM would
result in costs only 28% higher than those for the existing repository design,
on a net present value dollar basis.
The full report is available here.
In a 2006 preliminary report on Yucca Mountain expansion opportunities, EPRI determined
that the increased capacity could be achieved by expanding the repository area
into adjacent, competent rock formations, and by increasing the loading density
of spent fuel casks in a given area. For the 2007 report, EPRI conducted more
detailed analysis of the thermal, hydrologic, and rock stability aspects of the
higher loading density design than was available for the 2006 report. The
additional EPRI work demonstrates that the higher loading density design can
satisfy all temperature criteria and accommodate the construction and
ventilation of additional disposal drifts.
The EPRI report indicates that Yucca Mountain could not only store all of the
waste from existing U.S. nuclear power plants, but also waste produced from a
significantly expanded U.S. nuclear power plant fleet for at least several
decades. If all U.S. operating commercial nuclear reactors operated for 60
years, approximately 140,000 MTHM of commercial spent nuclear fuel would require
disposal, including the existing spent fuel from reactors previously shut down.
Further, even if the United States decides to close the nuclear fuel cycle
through reprocessing and advanced reactors, the expanded Yucca Mountain capacity
would allow time for the necessary R&D to accomplish a full-scale and
economically competitive closed fuel cycle.
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