The State of Idaho and the U.S. Department of Energy signed an agreement today enhancing the Idaho National Laboratory's position as the nation's leading nuclear research center and allowing it to work with the commercial nuclear power industry on improving fuel reliability and developing a better understanding of how nuclear materials age.
The new Memorandum of Agreement spells out the conditions under which INL may bring limited research quantities of used commercial fuels to the lab for examination and testing. Any amounts of used commercial fuel brought to the INL would be counted against the existing caps for spent fuel shipments specified in the 1995 Settlement Agreement between the State of Idaho and the federal government.
"The INL has unique testing capabilities that are critical if we as a nation are serious about increasing the operating lives and improving the performance of existing reactors," Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter said. "My goal is to help build Idaho's and INL's research reputations, and this agreement better positions the lab to meet the growing technology development and demonstration needs of the nuclear industry."
"This agreement ensures that no additional shipments of fuel will come to the state beyond those specified in the 1995 Settlement Agreement," Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said. "Rather than simply bringing to Idaho DOE spent fuels, that may or may not have research value, this agreement clarifies that INL can now provide critical research to the commercial nuclear industry so commercial reactors can operate with heightened production and operational surety. All of this work is consistent with the spirit, intent, and limitations of the 1995 Settlement Agreement."
The 1995 Settlement Agreement designated INL as the "lead laboratory for research, development and testing of treatment, shipment and disposal technologies" for DOE spent fuel. Under the MOA, INL's relationship with the commercial nuclear industry is clarified to allow the lab to:
* Identify and receive research quantities of irradiated commercial fuels worthy of post- irradiation examination at the Lab.
* Create a library limited to 10 kg total heavy metal that would allow for efficient re-examination of materials and measure improvements to fuel characteristics. The amount of shipments and fuel in the library is limited to those specified in the 1995 Settlement Agreement.
The MOA specifies that any materials retained for future research would still fall under the 2035 deadline in the 1995 Settlement Agreement for removal from the state, and the State of Idaho retains the ability to terminate the MOA at its discretion.