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Standby storage for nuclear waste.

Standby storage for nuclear waste

A cleared construction site near the Clinch River in Tennessee is the preferred location for temporarily storing high-level radioactive waste until a permanent repository is ready, Department of Energy (DOE) officials announced last week. This "monitored retrievable storage' (MRS) facility, costing about $1 billion to build, would process, package and store up to 15,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel from the nation's licensed nuclear power plants (SN: 1/7/84, p. 5; 1/5/85, p. 6).

The Clinch River site, abandoned since late 1983 when Congress killed the breeder reactor project that was to occupy the land (SN: 11/19/83, p. 329), is near enough to most of the nation's nuclear power plants to reduce the distance spent nuclear fuel must be shipped to get it to a storage facility, says Ben C. Rusche, director of DOE's Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management. DOE's two alternative storage sites are also in Tennessee: one on federal land near Oak Ridge and the other at the Tennessee Valley Authority's canceled Hartsville nuclear plant site northeast of Nashville.

"Siting, construction and operation of an MRS can be based on available technologies,' says Rusche. "Facilities essentially identical to the proposed MRS have been built, licensed and operated safely over the last 30 years. For this reason, we are confident that we can adhere to the strictest safety standards.'

Next January, DOE will submit to Congress a detailed proposal including environmental assessments and two facility designs for each location. This will allow Congress to choose one of the six possible combinations of design and site. If approved by Congress, the MRS facility could begin operating as early as 1996. DOE is obligated on Jan. 31, 1998, to begin accepting shipments of spent fuel for final disposal, whether or not a permanent geological repository, already behind schedule, is completed and able to accept radioactive waste by then
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Title Annotation:Tennessee
Author:Peterson, Ivars
Publication:Science News
Date:May 4, 1985
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