This interesting post appeared on Radsafe this morning.....
(those decommissioning cost estimates seem a bit exaggerated to me -- no doubt to discourage intentions of doing just that....)
Coalition appeals to White House to keep FFTF on
This story was published 6/18/02
By Annette Cary Herald staff writer
Supporters of restarting Hanford's Fast Flux Test Facility have presented their plan at the White House, including a list of companies interested in contracts and potential shifts in federal policies that could increase interest in the reactor.
The Department of Energy has said it has no use for the reactor and ordered it permanently shut down. But a coalition of Mid-Columbia governments is requesting that the reactor be turned over as surplus to the community as other excess federal equipment has been. The reactor and supporting facilities have an estimated replacement cost of $2.5 billion.
"The bottom line is that we have qualified companies willing to be participants," said Claude Oliver, chairman of the Benton County Commission.
Benton County, the Port of Benton and Richland are forming a community reuse agency that would find users for the nuclear reactor, which would remain federal property.
At a meeting June 5 with Karen Knutson, the deputy assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney, supporters of the reactor presented letters of interest from three national or international leaders in nuclear-related business.
Entergy, one of the nation's largest nuclear operators, said it is interested in operating the reactor if the administration decides to restart it. Two representatives of Entergy attended the White House meeting.
Framatome, an international leader in fuel and support services to the nuclear industry, said it would be interested in a service contract to support operations.
A third company, Reviss Services, an international supplier of isotopes, said it projected buying more than 5 million curies of cobalt 60 from FFTF annually plus other isotopes. The letter was not a firm commitment, but "an expression of considerable interest," it said.
In late 2000, the Clinton Administration ordered the reactor shut down after a lengthy study, in part because it found insufficient corporate and government interest in using the reactor.
But the coalition of Mid-Columbia governments contends that it can do what the federal government could not -- assemble a team of corporations to operate the reactor and market the isotopes it produces.
The Bush administration already has shot down as too risky one proposal to privately operate the reactor.
But that decision was made by the Department of Energy, and the White House needs to consider a range of possible interests in the reactor from other agencies and the costs of shutting down the reactor, Oliver said.
"The DOE mission is dead," Oliver said. "We accept that. We're offering a public-private partnership."
Supporters contend that costs to shut down the reactor are greater than most officials in the Bush administration realize, but that restarting the reactor could raise money to decommission the reactor. In the Clinton Administration decision to shut down the reactor, the cost of deactivation was set at $250 million over five or six years.
But that only would do initial work, such as taking the sodium out of the reactor and washing the fuel, supporters said.
A June 4 letter to Oliver from Michael Schlender, DOE deputy manager, estimates the cost of final closure of FFTF will cost about $1.3 billion. That assumes spending $36.1 million in 2003 and $46.1 million in subsequent years.
However, costs could be "significantly reduced under different assumptions," and $1.3 billion should be considered an approximate order of magnitude estimate only, the letter said.
Supporters of the reactor, relying on other DOE documents, said at the White House that entombing the reactor would cost $850 million. Taking the reactor apart down to the ground would cost $1.3 billion if done quickly, or $2.1 billion if work were extended over more years.
They're proposing using the reactor for 30 years and setting aside $1 billion from sales for eventual deactivation and decommissioning.
Government agencies also may have uses for the reactor not evident when earlier decisions were made, they said.
That includes DOE. In 2000, when the Clinton Administration announced its decision to shut down FFTF, it said it wanted to develop an Advanced Accelerator Applications facility and that $68 million had been set aside for planning.
However, industry newsletter Nucleonics Week reported this month that DOE has decided that accelerator technologies for fuel cycle work were too expensive and that instead DOE is looking at reactor technologies.
The DOE discussion of accelerator technologies came June 4, a few weeks after an agreement by Presidents Bush and Vladimir Putin to form a group of Russian and U.S. experts to look at ways to reduce nuclear weapons-grade material.
FFTF could be used to give disposal a quick start and for testing of fuels developed from surplus plutonium.
In addition, Gammatech, a Ukrainian-Russian company developing technologies for treating nuclear waste, has said it is interested in using FFTF.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration also could have a renewed interest in using the reactor under its new director, Sean O'Keefe. He's proposed money in NASA's 2003 budget to study nuclear propulsion systems that would shorten flight times.
However, NASA has no test facilities for nuclear fuels, said Ken Dobbin, a West Richland councilman and supporter of FFTF.
The Health and Human Services Department also may have some interest in FFTF, Oliver said, citing a letter written by Secretary Tommy Thompson last summer. It told U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., that he wanted to ensure that any decision on FFTF "not jeopardize the availability of isotopes for medical purposes."
Those presenting information at the White House included Oliver; Hastings; Tom Tenforde, the president of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement; Alan Waltar, head of the nuclear engineering department at Texas A&M University; and Marc Garland, a technical specialist on FFTF.
Supporters' next goal is to get an audience with Cheney, Oliver said.