Energy Secretary defends possible German nuke waste imports
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[July 29, 2014]
By Harriet McLeod
AIKEN South Carolina (Reuters) - U.S.
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Monday defended his agency's
controversial move to consider processing spent nuclear fuel from
Germany at South Carolina's Savannah River Site nuclear facility, saying
the proposal is consistent with U.S. efforts to secure highly enriched
uranium across the globe.
The United States has for years accepted spent fuel from research
reactors in various countries that was produced with uranium of U.S.
origin as a part of U.S. nuclear non-proliferation policy and
Receiving the German spent fuel would be "very much in line with our
mission of removing the global danger of nuclear weapons material,"
Moniz told reporters before a visit to the South Carolina nuclear
The decision on whether to accept the German fuel is still under
discussion, he said.
Moniz said Berlin approached the United States and would bear the
full expense for the planning and execution of a program to
reprocess the waste. The German government has also agreed to pay
the United States $10 million so far, including funds for research
and environmental studies.
Critics have questioned whether the South Carolina site, operated by
the Department of Energy, should accept more highly radioactive
material when it has no final resting place for what is already
The Obama administration scrapped plans to dispose of U.S. nuclear
waste, currently stored at locations across the country, at the
remote Yucca Mountain site in Nevada.
"What we don't want is for this site to remain a dumping ground,"
said South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who invited Moniz to tour
the plant with U.S. senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott. "Do we
take on now German waste when there is no end game?"
Tom Clements, director of the public-interest group Savannah River
Site Watch, said he planned to ask Moniz to halt plans to import the
high-level waste that could end up "stranded" at the South Carolina
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Moniz said the nation has a legal and moral obligation to clean up
U.S. nuclear waste sites, but added that a relatively small amount
of waste would result from the processing of the German spent fuel.
South Carolina has threatened the federal government that it will
call for obligated fines of up to $100 million a year for the delay
in cleaning up its nuclear waste in the state.
Consisting of about 900 kilograms of highly enriched uranium encased
in graphite spheres, the German spent fuel was part of a research
project in Germany to develop a new kind of high-temperature gas
The technique for removing the highly enriched uranium from this
form of spent fuel has not been developed.
(Reporting by Harriet McLeod. Additional reporting by Ayesha Rascoe.
Editing by Ros Krasny and Andre Grenon)
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