Environmental Impacts

Where will the used nuclear fuel go after it leaves the reactor?

Fundamentally, the used nuclear fuel will be regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, not the Department of Energy.  In the spent fuel pool, there will be over 1,400 accessible storage locations which will accommodate simultaneous storage of new fuel assemblies, spent fuel assemblies, plus the total number of assemblies in 12 NuScale Power Modules. This spacing is expected to accommodate more than 10 years’ worth of spent fuel storage space.   The site will also have onsite dry cask spent fuel storage sufficient to accommodate the fuel generated by 60 years of plant operation.  UAMPS will ultimately send its spent fuel to either a national repository for permanent disposition, or to a national used fuel recycling center, or to an interim fuel storage center.

Note that the disposal options may differ from the high-level waste currently at the DOE’s INL site.  The existing DOE high-level waste is a mix of different types of materials, few of which are candidates for eventual recycle.  Those wastes are not necessarily destined for the same national repository as commercial used fuel, whether or not that fuel is recycled to first recover the 95% of material that remains useful.  Unlike DOE wastes, the NRC requires a fee be paid by utilities such as UAMPS as used commercial nuclear fuel is produced.  By law, that fee goes into an account that can only be used for eventual permanent disposal of the fuel.   The Secretary of the DOE reported in 2013 on the adequacy of the current Nuclear Waste Fund Fee under a variety of economic scenarios, and found that ‘there is currently no compelling evidence that either insufficient or excess revenues are being collected to ensure recovery costs’ 3


3 U.S. Department of Energy Nuclear Waste Fund Fee Adequacy Assessment Report January, 201. (http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/January%2016%202013%20Secretarial%20Determination%20of%20the%20Adequacy%20of%20the%20Nuclear%20Waste%20Fund%20Fee.pdf)

What happens if the U.S. doesn’t have a geologic waste disposal site in operation?

The CFPP, just like all existing nuclear power plants, will have facilities onsite to storeused nuclear fuel.  These are licensed and regulated by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  Because of the uncertainty of U.S. federal policy, new plants are being designed and constructed so that all of the used fuel that would be generated during the lifetime of the plant can be safely stored on-site. When removed from a reactor, used fuel is kept in water to provide cooling and shielding of plant personnel.  After 3-5 years, the used fuel can be dried and moved to an onsite dry fuel storage cask.  The NRC has renewed and accepted a long term Environmental Impact Statement that has determined there are no adverse environmental effects and that long term spent fuel storage can be safely conducted at all U.S. nuclear power plants when stored in accordance with the applicable Federal regulations.   

More broadly, as part of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, the US Congress established a fee paid by electric utilities of nuclear generated electricity to fund the safe and long term storage of radioactive materials. 

What impact does the 1995 Settlement Agreement between Idaho and DOE have on the UAMPS CFPP?

The Settlement Agreement is an agreement between Idaho and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The agreement sets specific deadlines and milestones for cleaning up and remediating Cold War-era waste practices. If those targets are not met, Idaho can prevent DOE from bringing additional government -owned nuclear fuel to the its Idaho sitefor research or storage.    Because UAMPS, not DOE, will own the fuel for the CFPP project, the Settlement Agreement does not apply to this project. (A copy of the Agreement can be found at:  https://www.deq.idaho.gov/media/550338-1995_Settlement_Agreement.pdf)

For a 600 MWe facility (12 units at 50 MWe each), total daily water usage is estimated at roughly 15 million gallons, of which 5 million is consumed and 10 million is returned to the system. For context, that’s roughly equivalent to the water consumption of 3.5 standard center pivot irrigation setups (each uses about 1.44 million gallons per day).

What impact does the UAMPS CFPP Project have on the Eastern Snake River Aquifer?


Will the facility be covered by the DOE federally-reserved water right?

If DOE federally-reserved water right does not cover the facility, how will water rights be secured?

Water withdrawal from the aquifer will likely require the purchase existing private water rights.

Any reactor and spent fuel pool leakage will be collected by the Liquid Waste Management system (LWMS).  This LWMS minimizes liquid effluent discharges to the environment by processing liquid wastes and monitoring any releases.  Analyses included in the NuScale Design Certification application will demonstrate that the design of the LWMS meets the stringent legal requirements of 10 CFR 20.1301 and 20.1302, 10 CFR 20.1301(e), 10 CFR 20.1406, 10 CFR 50.34a, GDCs 60, 61 and 64, 40 CFR 190 and Appendix I to 10 CFR Part 50. 

UAMPS, as the Construction and Operating License Applicant, will use site-specific parameters to perform an analysis of the offsite dose consequences of normal liquid effluents pursuant to the relevant legal requirements ( 10CFR20.1301, 1302, 1301(e), 10CFR50.34a, 10CFR50 Appendix I, 10CFR20 Appendix B, Table 2 and 40CFR190).

If the spent fuel or reactor pool water should be released to the environment what  concentrations of radioactivity and chemical additives would be released?

UAMPS has identified their preferred site within the boundaries of the Idaho National Laboratory.  The 35 acre site is located about six miles south of the Lost River rest stop west of the intersection of U.S. Highways 20 & 26 and due north of EBR-1.  DOE and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have prepared a Conservation Agreement related to sage grouse management, and this preferred location is outside of the critical management area.  Any potential additional impacts to ecosystems will be evaluated as part of the environmental review process required for licensing.

Have the impacts to sage grouse been evaluated?


Any violation of state or federal agreements would disqualify potential sites. DOE and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have prepared a Conservation Agreement related to sage grouse management, and the preferred location for the CFPP is outside of the critical management area.

Will the facility violate the sage grouse agreement?

UAMPS has identified their preferred site within the boundaries of the Idaho National Laboratory.  The 35 acre site is located about six miles south of the Lost River rest stop west of the intersection of U.S. Highways 20 & 26 and due north of EBR-1.

Land - How big will the NuScale footprint be on DOE’s Idaho site?

By law, every commercial nuclear power station puts aside a portion of the money from power generation to be used for the plant’s future decommissioning. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulates how much money must be put aside, how much must be accumulated and whether the bank accounts holding the accumulated money are secure. The required amount of financial assurance and the financial mechanism for providing that funding are specifically reviewed and approved by the NRC as a part of the initial licensing process.  These federal requirements ensure that the government (the taxpayer) is never put in a position to have to pay for cleanup or decommissioning of a commercial nuclear facility. Evaluations of recent plant decommissioning’s indicate that decommissioning funds have been determined to be sufficient. 4

4 Examples include:

1.      SONGS 2 and 3:  ‘the current level of funding in Southern California Edison’s nuclear decommissioning trust is sufficient at this time to meet SCE’s share of the estimated cost of decommissioning SONGS 2 & 3…’ from https://www.sdge.com/sites/default/files/regulatory/SCE-2_0.pdf

2.      Vermont Yankee: ‘the cash flow analysis demonstrates that VYNPS trust fund is sufficiently funded for all license termination activities and certain spent fuel management activities…’   from    http://vydecommissioning.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/BVY-14-082-Update-to-Decommissioning-Funding-Status-Report.pdf.

How will funding for eventual plant decommissioning be financially assured?