Mr. Howard Canter, Technical Director, Office
of Fissile Materials Disposition, U.S. Department of Energy asked
the Amarillo National Resource Center for Plutonium to review
a draft document titled, "Summary Report of the Screening
Process to Determine Reasonable Alternatives for Storage and Disposition
of Weapons-Usable Fissile Materials" (referred to hereafter
as Draft Summary Report).
In order to carry out this task, the Center
assembled a Senior Technical Review Group: a distinguished Group
of sixteen national leaders in science, engineering, public policy,
health and industry, with broad-based competency in nuclear issues.
The Center charged this Group with reviewing the Draft Summary
Report and making recommendations about the process and the product.
The members of the Group reviewed documents prior to two meetings
held in Dallas, Texas on 17 February and 11 March 1995.
The recommendations of the Senior Technical
Review Group and the observations that led to the recommendations
appear below. An annotated roster of the Senior Technical Review
Group appears at the end of this report.
In 1991, the United States (U.S.) and the
Soviet Union signed the first Strategic Arms Reduction Talks Treaty
(START I). Start I reflected the superpowers' mutual desire for
arms reductions and included a 30% reduction in strategic nuclear
warheads, including a 50% reduction in ballistic-missile warheads.
The collapse of the former Soviet Union in late 1991 led rapidly
to a second treaty governing nuclear arms reduction, START II.
START II, which was signed in 1993, called for a reduction in
strategic nuclear warheads to about one-third of 1990 levels and
a complete elimination of land-based, multiple-warhead missiles.
Although not ratified by either party, the governments are conducting
business as though START II was ratified. In parallel, tactical
nuclear weapons are being reduced by executive agreement between
President Clinton and Yeltsin.
As a consequence of dismantling nuclear
warheads, decisions must be made concerning the best options for
storage, disposition, and/or utilization of the excess fissile
materials removed from these weapons, primarily plutonium and
highly-enriched uranium. In 1994, a standing committee of the
National Academy of Sciences, the Committee on International Security
and Arms Control, published the results of an in-depth study of
storage and disposition options titled, Management and Disposition
of Excess Weapons Plutonium. This study report emphasizes
that, "The existence of this surplus material constitutes
a clear and present danger to national and international security."
The urgency of plutonium disposition emerges at this time primarily
due to the excess of weapons-grade plutonium in Russia and a concern
regarding diversion of this material. A dialogue is presently
developing among several countries to evaluate mutually beneficial
plutonium disposition options.
In response to the Clinton administration's call for a comprehensive approach to the growing stock of fissile materials from dismantled nuclear weapons, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) developed a screening process to consider potential options for: (1) Long-term storage of strategic reserve and surplus weapons-usable fissile materials, and (2) Disposition of surplus weapons-usable fissile materials determined excess to national security needs, presently estimated to include approximately 50 metric tons of plutonium and a greater quantity of surplus highly-enriched uranium in the U.S. The quantities of surplus plutonium and highly-enriched uranium in Russia are
similar or greater than that in the U.S. In developing this screening process, DOE obtained public input on screening criteria to be utilized and options to be evaluated. A report was then drafted, Draft Summary Report, that describes the process and the results of the first phase of this screening. Prior to distribution of the Draft Summary Report, the DOE asked the Center to review the draft. The Center assembled a high-level review group, The Senior Technical Review Group, to comment on the screening process and the options delineated in the report.
Overview of the Review Process
The members of the Senior Technical Review
Group were furnished with background information, including the
1994 study report of the National Academy of Sciences' Committee
on International Security and Arms Control and the Draft Summary
Report, for their review prior to a meeting in Dallas, Texas on
17 February 1995. At that meeting, the Group received valuable
input from the staff of the DOE's Office of Fissile Materials
Disposition. Group members submitted written comments to Center
staff and met again on 11 March 1995 to finalize recommendations
and review and revise this Group report.
Summary and Principal Recommendations
The DOE staff did an excellent job of organizing
and writing the Draft Summary Report and orally presenting information
to the Senior Technical Review Group; each step of the screening
process was documented in detail. The Draft Summary Report targets
weapons-usable plutonium. Weapons-usable plutonium includes weapons-grade
plutonium and plutonium that is in a form from which the plutonium
would be difficult to fabricate a weapon, such as plutonium in
commercial spent fuel. Because of the more immediate proliferation
risk posed by weapons-grade plutonium, the comments of the Group
apply to weapons-grade plutonium. Furthermore, the fact that
certain plutonium disposition options were eliminated for the
purpose of timely disposition of excess weapons-grade plutonium
does not imply that the eliminated options have or do not have
utility for future purposes, including disposition of weapons-usable
The Review Group concurs with the DOE position
in the Draft Summary Report that the acceptable standards for
storage and disposition are the stored weapon standard and the
spent fuel standard, respectively. In like manner, the Review
Group adopted the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on International
Security and Arms Control argument for not considering plutonium
contained in commercial spent fuels. This argument was also incorporated
in the Draft Summary Report.
Eight recommendations of the Senior Technical
Review Group follow:
The list of screening criteria included
in the Draft Summary Report was found to be complete. The Review
Group's suggestions for prioritization of these criteria are reflected
in the findings and recommendations presented.
The first paragraph of the Draft Summary
Report contains a succinct powerful statement about the dangers
posed by the tremendous amounts of weapons-usable fissile materials
that are surplus to the national needs of the U.S. and Russia.
Repetition of this statement at appropriate places in the Draft
Summary Report and in any questionnaires distributed is advisable.
Unless the urgency of resolving this problem is kept in the forefront,
incorrect judgments and decisions may be made. Similarly, the
risks involved in delaying action for any substantial period should
be clearly spelled out.
The Group finds an apparent serious mismatch
between the time schedule for the disposition options identified
for further study in the Draft Summary Report and the immediacy
of the threat to national and international security. The disposition
options identified require approximately two decades to complete,
and five or more years to initiate. Safe and secure storage for
an extended period may be the only available means for reducing
the risk to acceptable levels in the near-term.
Specific Options for Disposition
From the options evaluated in the Draft
Summary Report, DOE selected ten options as reasonable alternatives
for plutonium disposition and these options are slated for detailed
study. These options are listed in the Appendix of this report.
Presently, the Review Group believes three
of the options still under consideration by DOE appear to have
the greatest potential for immediate development as follows:
Another option, option R-1, transfer to
the EURATOM market for mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel reactor burning,
technically offers the most rapid way to carry out the disposition
option since MOX fabrication facilities and MOX burning reactors
are already in operation in Europe. However, international agreements
would have to be reached, overseas shipments of plutonium and
possibly spent fuel would be required, and an equivalent amount
of commercial separated plutonium would have to be stored, which
could counter the timing advantage.
Finally, a minority opinion endorsed by
four of the sixteen Group members supports an option which was
eliminated in the screening process: the advanced liquid metal
reactor/IFR. These Group members suggest that the advanced reactor
options should be carried forward through the completion of the
assessment process and not be ruled out at this stage because
of the timeliness factor. Additionally, these four Group members
would give extra weight to these options because these options
promise progress "beyond the spent fuel standard" while
others do not. This minority opinion was opposed by all of the
other Group members because going beyond the spent fuel standard
does not advance national or international security for weapons-grade
The DOE sought public input on screening
criteria to be utilized and options to be evaluated by holding
a series of 12 scoping meetings and requesting that the public
complete and return two questionnaires. The two questionnaires
focused on: (1) Criteria for screening long-term storage alternatives
and (2) Criteria for screening disposition alternatives. As
a result of the input received, the statement of several of the
criteria were modified to clarify the criteria definition.
The survey was found to have three primary
shortcomings: (1) Respondents were self-selected and few in number,
(2) Preamble for questionnaire as well as wording of individual
items did not give the respondents the background needed to respond,
and (3) Questions were not tested for validity. Because of these
three shortcomings, the results of the survey are given more weight
than is warranted in the Draft Summary Report.
Basically, four economic issues surfaced
during the Group discussion. First, it was suggested that the
total cost should be considered and that too little weight was
given to the cost effectiveness criteria in the Draft Summary
Report. It was agreed that it was important to look at total
cost including the problem of who would pay for energy generation
options, the entire burden on taxpayers versus the entire burden
on rate payers. Finally, in discussing the costs of the disposition
options, it is appropriate to clarify that conclusions based on
Western economic conditions do not necessarily apply to Russia
where labor and materials costs are lower.
The term interim storage was confusing
in the Draft Summary Report as it was used interchangeably with
the term existing storage (see for example page 1-6 and
figure 1-3). Both the terms interim and long-term storage
would be more useful if the terms were given functional definitions.
Issues for Future
Consideration by the Department of Energy
In addition to reviewing the Draft Summary
Report, the Senior Technical Review Group discussed issues relevant
to but not specifically addressed in the Report. One such issue
is the need for the DOE to pursue an aggressive research and development
strategy to the extent necessary to implement the disposition
Another issue is that of the need for legislation.
Because this is a long-term program that requires a dependable
strategy over time, the DOE is encouraged to propose legislation
that puts the U.S. Congress behind a disposition program and the
Administration under a legal process by which cooperation will
occur. This in turn could set an example for Russia that may
follow a similar course. While laws can be changed by governments,
legislation provides a degree of stability that is encouraged.
Finally, disposition options should be implemented by the U.S.
at a rate commensurate with the rate at which Russia also disposes
of its surplus weapons-grade plutonium.
of Senior Technical Review Group Members
John F. Ahearne,
Executive Director, Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society,
formerly vice president and senior fellow of Resources for the
Future, served as member of numerous committees, boards and commissions
related to nuclear energy including chairman of the National Research
Council Committee on the Future of Nuclear Power Development and
Committee on Risk Perception and Communication, Fellow of the
American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Floyd L. Culler, Jr.,
President Emeritus, Electric Power Research Institute, member
of the National Academy of Engineering, Fellow of the American
Institute of Chemists, American Nuclear Society, and the American
Institute of Chemical Engineers, recipient of numerous awards
including E.O. Lawrence award and the Robert E. Wilson award of
the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.
Paul M. Doty,
Professor Emeritus, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
and Director Emeritus, Center for Science and International Affairs,
Harvard University, member of the National Academy of Sciences,
member of National Academy's Committee on International Security
and Arms Control.
Shirley A. Fry, Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), Physician/Epidemiologist, formerly Assistant Director, Medical Sciences Division and Director of the Division's Center for Epidemiologic Research, ORISE; member of medical teaching staff, Radiation Emergency Assistance Center/Training Site, ORISE; member of national and international groups studying the acute and long-term health effects of ionizing radiation.
President Emeritus, Rice University, Chairman of the Scientific
Advisory Committee, Robert A. Welch Foundation, member of the
National Academy of Sciences. Recipient of distinguished achievement
awards from numerous scientific societies and government bodies;
most recently in 1993 received the National Medal of Science and
the Vannevear Bush Medal of the National Science Board.
Richard T. Kennedy, Ambassador
at large (retired), commissioned as Ambassador at large
and special advisor to the Secretary of State on nonproliferation
and nuclear energy policy from 1982-92, appointed Under Secretary
of State in 1981 and served as representative to the International
Atomic Energy Agency, 1981 to 1993. A fellow of the American
Nuclear Society and recipient of the ANS/ENS Beckhurst Award.
Commissioner of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 1975
Myron B. Kratzer, Deputy
Assistant Secretary of State for Nuclear Energy (retired), serves
on the American Nuclear Society special panel on plutonium, recipient
of the Atomic Energy Commission's Distinguished Service Medal.
Chemical engineer who served the Atomic Energy Commission from
1958-71, including Assistant General Manager for International
John W. Landis,
Chairman, Public Safety Standards Group, member of the National
Academy of Engineering, past-president and Fellow of the American
Nuclear Society, Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical
Engineers, retired president of General Atomics and Stone &
Webster International, recipient of DOE Exceptional Public Service
Award and numerous other awards, has served on 27 government advisory
I. Harry Mandil,
President (retired), MPR Associates, in charge of reactor engineering
under Admiral Rickover, served on former Secretary of Energy Watkins
Lewis Manning Muntzing,
Attorney, Morgan, Lewis and Bockius, Washington, D.C., President,
ADTECHS Corporation, past-chairman of the International Nuclear
Societies Council, past-president of the American Nuclear Society,
past-chairman of Council of Scientific Societies Presidents.
Paul Nelson, Professor
of Computer Science, Nuclear Engineering and Mathematics, Texas
A&M University, editor of The Journal of Transport
Theory and Statistical Physics, past-chair of the Mathematics
and Computation Division of the American Nuclear Society.
Wolfgang Panofsky, Professor
and Director Emeritus, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, member
of the National Academy of Sciences, member of the National Academy's
Committee on International Security and Arms Control and chair
of the Weapons Plutonium Management and Disposition Study Committee.
Recipient of National Medal of Science and Lawrence and Fermi
Awards of the Department of Energy.
Genevieve S. Roessler,
Associate Professor Emeritus, University of Florida, Fellow, past-president
and past-editor of the Health Physics Society, 1994 advisory committee
chair for the Health and Safety Research Division, Oak Ridge National
Laboratory, also served on scientific review committees for U.
S. Department of Energy (1984-88), and Rocky Flats (1980-82).
Glenn T. Seaborg,
Chairman, Lawrence Hall of Science, received Nobel prize for Chemistry
in 1951 and was original chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission,
co-discoverer of over 16 elements and isotopes including plutonium.
Holds distinguished achievement awards from numerous scientific
societies and countries; most recently received the National Medal
of Science (U.S. 1991) and the Royal Order of the Polar Star Sweden
John Taylor, Vice
President (retired), Nuclear Power Division, Electric Power Research
Institute, formerly Vice President and General Manager of the
Water Reactor Business Unit of Westinghouse Electric Corporation,
engaged in nuclear power development for naval propulsion and
electricity generation for 31 years, member of the National Academy
of Engineering, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement
of Science and the American Nuclear Society.
Kenneth L. Woodfin, Rear Admiral (retired), independent Management and Financial Consultant, expertise in the areas of logistics, acquisition and financial management, senior business assistant to Admiral Rickover in the Naval Nuclear Power Program, former assistant administrator of NASA, and senior vice president with Burns and Roe, international architectural engineers.
List of plutonium disposition options
selected as reasonable by the DOE during the first phase of
their screening process (see Draft Summary Report of the Screening
Process to Determine Reasonable Alternatives for Storage and Disposition
of Weapon-Usable Fissile Materials, February 1995).
(D-2/3) Emplacement in Very Deep Boreholes (either directly or immobilized without radionuclides, which were initially separate options)
(I-3) Immobilization with Radionuclides in New Borosilicate Glass Vitrification Plant or Facility, with Ultimate Repository Disposal
(I-4) Ceramic Immobilization with Radionuclides, with Ultimate Repository Disposal
(I-5) Metal Immobilization, with Ultimate Repository Disposal
(I-6) Borosilicate Glass Oxidation/Dissolution/Immobilization with Radionuclides, with Ultimate Repository Disposal
(R-1) Transfer to the EURATOM Market for Mixed-oxide (MOX) Fuel Reactor Burning
(R-2) Burning in Existing Light Water Reactors, with Ultimate Repository Disposal
(R-2A) Burning in Partially Completed Light Water Reactors, with Ultimate Repository Disposal
(R-3) Burning in Evolutionary or Advanced Light Water Reactors, with Ultimate Repository Disposal
(R-6) Burning in CANDU Heavy Water Reactors,
with Spent Fuel Disposal by Canadian Utility