New legislation could clear the path toward a sustainable strategy for storing spent nuclear fuel. Complexities and disagreements, however, might scuttle the effort.
Is Yucca Enough?
Scenarios depict possible nuclear waste futures.
backseat to energy independence. Nuclear implication: The Global Turmoil scenario reflects a constrained nuclear world due to unavailability of supply resources. Only 7 GW of new nuclear resources are added to the generation mix by 2030 and 42 GW by 2050. In this scenario, nuclear generation begins to decline to below the historical levels of 20 percent of national energy. In addition, new resources do not enter service until 2021.
• Technology Evolution: Undeniable evidence of global warming leads to election of “green candidate,” enactment of phased-in greenhouse gas constraints, and a big push for renewable energy and energy efficiency. Less efficient and highly polluting plants are replaced by IGCC, CO 2 sequestration technology, and other new low-GHG technologies. Nuclear implication: A second generation nuclear capacity fleet is built to fill the gap. Technology Evolution spurs growth of nuclear construction. Construction schedules are accelerated with building beginning in 2015. Advances in technology provide more modularization and construction costs fall to the low end of the spectrum. Sixty gigawatts of new nuclear resources are added to the generation mix by 2030 and 313 GW by 2050. The 313 GW also reflects replacement of the existing nuclear fleet with new nuclear resources.
• Global Economy: The shift of industrial U.S. load to the service industries and a policy of global consolidation drives the U.S. to forge a pact with European countries to stabilize global economic inflationary pressures. The pact also leads to pooling of energy resources to stabilize the fuel imports, as well as economies for consolidation of energy infrastructure. In addition, the United States benefits from the development of a global cap-and-trade program for CO 2. Nuclear implication: In the Global Economy scenario, 60 GW of nuclear resources are added by 2030 and 234 GW by 2050. Approximately 75 percent of the existing nuclear fleet is replaced with new nuclear resources. The ability to share resources internationally stimulates the manufacture of nuclear components needed for construction. In addition, the operation of resources is globalized to facilitate more efficient operations of both existing and new resources.
• Return to Reliability: Growing concern over electricity reliability due to brownouts and increased outages drives a lack in consumer confidence. The Electric Reliability Organization (ERO) recognizes the shortfall of the aging transmission infrastructure and leads to further consolidation of planning areas. To address concerns, reliability protocols are created increasing reserve margins for regions. Federal incentives are put in place for utilities and RTOs to build additional transmission lines to meet demand. Nuclear implication: In the Return to Reliability scenario, 39 GW of nuclear resources enter service by 2030 and 116 GW by 2050, replacing 50 percent of the existing nuclear fleet with new nuclear resources. Generally, these units are built at existing sites where multiple units previously had been planned; therefore, there may already be on-site storage for HLW.
The four scenarios illustrate a range of outcomes associated with significantly different, plausible futures. These futures will create different levels of demand for power and consequently total generating capacity (see Figure 1) . These resource