Download to read the complete comments.
Submitted via email October 10, 2012
The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) is in general agreement with the comments, analysis, and recommendations filed by the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) and others  on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement DOE/EIS-0283-S2 (Draft SEIS). IEER’s main comments, including some drawn from ANA et al. 2012, can be summarized as follows:
- The DOE has not identified specific utilities that have agreed to use MOX fuel or utilities that have made commitments to test MOX fuel. The reactors belonging to TVA identified by in the Draft EIS do not meet this test, since the TVA has not agreed to use MOX fuel produced by the DOE. Further, three of the five TVA reactors identified by the TVA are boiling water reactors (BWRs). MOX made from weapons plutonium has never been used on a commercial scale in power reactors and has never even been tested in Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs).
- Given the that the waste confidence rule and decision of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has been vacated by a federal court, the NRC has suspended all licensing and relicensing decisions. Given the license expiry dates of the TVA reactors, among other factors, it is unclear if the identified reactors will be available to consume all the MOX fuel that DOE plans to produce.
- In view of the fact that the Tennessee Valley Authority has not agreed to use MOX fuel made from weapons-grade plutonium, the DOE’s “Preferred Alternative” is lacking an essential element. The additional MOX that is identified in the Preferred Alternative in the Draft EIS would add to the 34 metric tons previously slated for MOX fuel production. The two matters are linked since the additional MOX would aggravate the problem of finding a sufficient number of reactors to use it within a reasonable time frame or even to use it at all.
- There would be storage costs and impacts if some or all of the produced MOX fuel has to be stored for a long period at SRS, if sufficient reactor facilities are not available and licensed to use weapons-MOX fuel. The impacts of prolonged storage of MOX fuel in case sufficient reactor capacity to irradiate it is not available should be evaluated.
- The costs of the MOX program are escalating out of control. This increases the likelihood of the entire program failing, especially given the tight federal budgetary environment. It is therefore essential for DOE to identify cheaper alternatives for the entire amount of plutonium that has been declared surplus to US nuclear weapons requirements, including the 13.1 metric tons considered in the Draft SEIS and the 34 metric tons that was not considered in it because it was previously slated for MOX fuel production. Given that cost increases, delays, and technical issues have put these plans into jeopardy, it is essential for DOE, both on security and environmental grounds to evaluate disposition alternatives for the entire surplus plutonium inventory.
- The plutonium disposition EIS must contain a “[a] full discussion of revisions of facilities at SRS and Los Alamos to process plutonium from nuclear weapons “triggers”” as stated in ANA et al. 2012.
- The agreement with Russia on surplus weapons plutonium disposition is not a treaty and the US can proceed to treat plutonium as a waste to be disposed of, especially given that Russia is proceeding on its own path and is not going to use MOX fuel in light water reactors.
- In view of the analysis in these comments, we conclude that the Draft SEIS is partial and essentially incomplete. It does not identify a valid and complete Preferred Alternative. As such it does not meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. It is essential for DOE to prepare a new or supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the entire surplus plutonium disposition program. A number of other parties have also asked for this. 
- An alternative that would process all surplus plutonium, including the 34 metric tons previously slated for MOX fuel production, and the 13.1 metric tons under consideration in the Draft SEIS, as TRU waste for disposal in a deep geologic repository should be evaluated. If the volume of TRU waste thus produced cannot be accommodated within the present legal framework for WIPP, other repository options should be evaluated.
More detail on some of these points can be found in the complete comments [PDF].
- Alliance for Nuclear Accountability et al., “Group Comments Submitted for the Record of the Department of Energy’s Draft Surplus Plutonium Disposition Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DOE/EIS-0283-S2, July 2012),” October 10, 2012, referred to hereafter as ANA et al. 2012. ↩ Return
- ANA et al. 2012. ↩ Return