A comprehensive screening of options for the disposition of surplus
weapons-usable fissile materials is underway by the US Department
of Energy Office of Fissile Materials Disposition. This screening
process will be the basis for An announcement in August 1996 of
the Record of Decision regarding the supposition options that
will be developed for implementation. A key element of the Department
of Energy's screening of alternative options is formulation of
a Long-Range Research and Development Plan (R&D Plan) that
defines the research and development activities needed prior to
implementing the options under consideration.
The first draft of this R&D Plan was forwarded to the Amarillo National Resource Center for Plutonium for review and comment by Howard Canter, Technical Director, Office of Fissile Materials Disposition, US Department of Energy. An expert review group, the Senior Technical Review Group, was assembled to comment on the screening process and the R&D Plan. This group includes a Nobel laureate and six members of the National Academies if Sciences and Engineering. (An annotated list of the Senior Technical Review Group members is attached.) The comments and recommendations of the Review Group are the subject of this report.
In response to a Presidential Initiative that called for a comprehensive
approach to the growing stockpile 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. There
are approximately 50 metric tons of excess plutonium and a greater
quantity of surplus highly-enriched uranium in the U.S., and at
least as much in the former Soviet Union. In developing the screening
process, DOE obtained public input on screening criteria to be
utilized and options to be evaluated.
In February 1995, the DOE Office of Fissile Materials Disposition
drafted a preliminary report that described this screening process
and the results of the first phase of screening. Prior to distribution
of the screening report, the Amarillo National Resource Center
for Plutonium was asked by DOE's Office of Fissile Materials Disposition
to review the preliminary report. An expert review group, the
Senior Technical Review Group, was assembled to comment on the
screening process and the options delineated in the report. This
Group includes a Nobel laureate and six members of the National
Academies of Sciences and Engineering. An annotated list of the
Senior Technical Review Group members is attached.
The findings and recommendations of the Senior Technical Review
Group were forwarded to the DOE Office of Fissile Materials Disposition
in a report titled, Review of the Draft Summary Report of the
Screening Process to Determine Reasonable Alternatives for Storage
and Disposition of Weapons-Usable Fissile Materials. Both
this review and the DOE Summary Report of the Screening Process
to Determine Reasonable Alternatives for Long-Term Storage and
Disposition of Weapons-Usable Fissile Materials were released
in March 1995. Copies of both reports
are available upon request to the Center at the phone or address
shown on the cover of this report. The recommendations put forth
by the Senior Technical Review Group in the March 1995 report
were based on the immediacy of the threat to national and international
security posed by excess weapons-grade plutonium in the world.
From the ten options evaluated in the DOE summary report (see
Appendix), the Senior Technical Review Group pointed out that
three of the options identified by DOE appeared to have the greatest
potential for immediate development and use for the timely disposition
of weapons-grade plutonium as follows:
Additionally, the Review Group noted that another option, identified
by DOE as option R-1, transfer to EURATOM market for mixed-oxide
(MOX) fuel reactor burning, technically offers the most rapid
way to carry out the disposition option since MOX fafbrication
facilities and MOX burning reactors are already in operation in
Europe. However, international agreements might have to be reached,
overseas shipments of plutonium and possibly spent fuel might
be required, and an equivalent amount of commercial separated
plutonium might have to be stored, which could offset the timing
advantage for the disposition of excess plutonium in the US.
Option R-1 could be more attractive as a means of disposing of
Russian weapons-grade plutonium. There would not be overseas
shipments and the impediment of licensing, since plutonium recycle
is already commercially licensed in Europe.
The comprehensive review of disposition alternatives which is
underway by the DOE Office of Fissile Materials Disposition will
be the basis for an argument in August 1996 of the Record of Decision
regarding the disposition alternatives that will be developed
for implementation. A key element of DOE's review of alternatives
is the formulation of a Long-Range Research and Development plan
(R&D Plan) that defines the research and development activities
needed prior to implementing the disposition alternatives under
consideration. The first draft of the R&D Plan was forwarded
to the Center's Senior Technical Review Group for review and comment.
The comments of the Review Group appear below.
Review Process and Principal Recommendations
The Senior Technical Review Group received the R&D Plan prior
to a meeting in Dallas, Texas on 8 June 1995. At that meeting,
the Group received valuable input from Howard R. Canter and Andre
I. Cygelman, technical director and deputy technical director
respectively, DOE Office of Fissile Materials Disposition.
The oral briefing provided by DOE staff to the Senior Technical
Review Group on 8 June 1995 was well organized and well received
by Group members. However, this was not the case for the written
R&D Plan. A large portion of the preliminary document will
be archived. Specifically, there is no intention to fund all
of the more than one billion dollars in R&D identified in
the first draft of the R&D Plan. Instead, R&D will be
done only on the selected option(s), including some work on items
common to all options. The total R&D expenditures will be
far less than the totals shown in the first draft. The Review
Group concurred with the points made by DOE staff during the oral
presentation regarding fiscal austerity, prioritization of alternatives,
international issues and the intention to seek assistance from
Russia and the rest of the international community.
In light of the above, and after extensive discussion, the Senior
Technical Review Group recommends that:
Emphasis should be placed
on those technical issues that must be resolved before the Record
of Decision in August 1996. Further, it should reflect the ongoing
narrowing options, for example, the Group reiterates the belief
that the "borehole" disposition alternative does not
The Review Group believes that urgency of disposition is a major
driving force for the R&D program. And, the actual start
of surplus plutonium dispositions by the U.S. would make a strong
and important impression on the international community concerning
U.S. commitment to the plutonium disposition program. Thus, the
lead time for disposition alternatives with the greatest potential
for immediate development could be shortened if R&D is accelerated
on items common to all disposition options, such as plutonium
conversion. Additionally, there may be some very specific items
on which R&D is needed to validate an option, that could be
accomplished at reasonable cost. However, a general program of
R&D long-lead items could result in large expenditures on
one or more rejected options, and should be avoided.
There was extensive discussion about the possible need for test
irradiation of "lead assemblies," Given the fact that
MOX irradiation is already in routine use in Europe, it was not
clear to the Group why so much R&D would be needed on this
option. It emerged in the discussion that much of the technical
uncertainty regarding the reactor option arises from two factors:
(1) the presence of gallium in surplus weapons plutonium, and
(2) the presumption that 100% MOX cores would be irradiated.
This leads to the need for burnable poisons that are absent from
European MOX, the irradiation of which has been confined to partial
cores. In light of these factors, the group urged DOE to seriously
consider, at least for the initiation of surplus plutonium disposition,
the removal of gallium before MOX fabrication and the use of partial
core irradiations to avoid the use of burnable
poisons and take full advantage of the European experience.
it is recommended that cost estimates include confirmatory costs
of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Nuclear Defense Facilities
Safety Board. These costs should be included as part of the implementation
Not all of the options under consideration have
the same technical risk.
Institutional issues may prove
to be far more onerous than technical issues for the most reasonable
alternatives. In addition to a technical R&D plan, there
may be a need for a non-technical plan. How will technical issues
be merged with political realities? For example, if a MOX fuel
alternative is selected, what level of understanding is required
for this alternative to be accepted by the public, the management
of electric utilities, regulatory agencies and Russian officials?
Most of the R&D proposed is to be performed
by a number of organizations. Strong R&D project leaders
with the necessary technical experience should be assigned to
the R&D tasks. Accordingly, to assure that the work is carried
out effectively and within established budgets, it is very important
that the managerial and technical coordination of the organizations
involved and the decision making and approval
processes be clearly delineated.
In particular, greater consideration should be given to the
need to dispose of Russian excess weapons materials in a timely
manner and in parallels with U.S. materials disposition. This
issue can be better addressed if the Russians are brought into
the R&D program for the preferred disposition alternatives.
Russian officials' understanding of the alternatives will be
enhanced and R&D costs will be lowered.
Other international issues will need to be considered including,
for example, how the planned exchange of MOX technology between
France and Russia may enhance the opportunity to have MOX fuel
produced in Russia; effect of U.S. restrictions on the release
of information about plutonium to foreign nationals; and the development
of nuclear liability protection regulations by Russia.
of the attitude of the U.S. reactor operators is a major prerequisite
to determining the feasibility of timely development of a licensable
MOX fabrication plant in the U.S. The development of a licensable
MOX fabrication facility in the U.S. at an early date would result
in a significant reduction in the time when light water reactors
could be used to dispose of surplus plutonium.
Annotated List of Senior Technical Review
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 the National Academy's Committee
on International Security and Arms Control.
E. Linn Draper, Jr., Chairman, President and Chief Executive
Officer of American Electric Power, is a member of the National
Academy of Engineering, and serves on the boards of the Nuclear
Energy Institute and the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations.
He served on the faculty and administration of the University
of Texas where he was director of the Nuclear Engineering Program.
He holds a doctorate in nuclear science and engineering from
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; a 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.
Norman Hackerman, 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
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 (1982 - 92),
appointed Under Secretary of State (1982) and served as representative
to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
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 Activities.
John W. Landis, Chairman, Public Safety Standards Group,
member of the National Academy of Engineering, part-president
and Fellow of the American Nuclear Society, Fellow if 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 committees.
I. Harry Mandil, President, (retired), MPR Associates,
Inc. In charge of reactor engineering under Admiral Rickhover,
served on former Secretary of Energy Watkins advisory committee.
Engaged in the development and application of nuclear power for
naval propulsion and electricity generating central stations for
45 years, recipient of Navy Department Meritorious and Distinguished
Civilian Service Awards and American Society of Mechanical Engineers
Prime Movers Award.
Lewis Manning Muntzing, Partner, Morgan, Lewis and Bockius,
Washington, D.C., Chairman of then International Nuclear Societies
Council, serves on the editorial advisory board of Progress in
Nuclear Energy International Review Journal, recipient in 1974
of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission's Arthur S. Fleming Distinguished
Service Award, past-president of the American Nuclear Society.
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
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 (1992).
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
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 Rickhover in the Naval Nuclear Power Program, former assistant administrator of NASA, and senior vice president with Burns and Roe, international architectural engineers. Appendix
List of plutonium disposition options selected
as result of first phase of screening process
by the U.S. Department of Energy (see Summary Report of the Screening Process to Determine Reasonable
Alternatives for Storage and Disposition of Weapons-Usable Fissile
Materials, March 1995).
(D-2/3) Emplacement in Very Deep Boreholes (either directly or
immobilized without radionuclides, which are initially separate
(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
(I-5) Metal Immobilization, with Ultimate Repository Disposal
(I-6) Borosilicate Glass Oxidation/Dissolution/Immobilization
with Radionuclides, with Ultimate Repository Disposal
(R-1) Transfer the EURATOM Market for Mixed-oxide (MOX) Fuel Reactor
(R-2) Burning in Existing Light Water Reactors, with Ultimate
(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 Disposals
by Canadian Utility