Order Code RS22001
Updated December 21, 2004
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage Locations
Specialist in Industrial Engineering and Infrastructure Policy
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
Spent nuclear fuel is principally stored at 83 locations throughout the United States,
including reactor storage pools, independent spent fuel storage installations, national
laboratories, and defense weapons sites. Additional sites include university research and
training reactors. The104 commercial nuclear generating units1 licensed to operate in
31 states discharge over 2,000 metric tons2 of spent fuel annually. The total inventory
could approach 54,000 metric tons at the end of 2004. This report will be updated when
new statistics become available.
Commercial Spent Fuel Generation
A typical fuel rod used in commercial nuclear power reactors consists of uranium
dioxide pellets surrounded by zirconium alloy cladding. The uranium oxide pellets consist
of 3-4% fissionable3 uranium-235, and a balance of nonfissionable U-238. An individual
fuel assembly consists of arrays of fuel rods. The Energy Information Administration
(EIA) notes 131 reactor fuel assembly types on its Nuclear Fuel Data Survey Form.4 The
assemblies range in weight from ~70 kilograms uranium for a boiling water reactor5 to
~464 kilograms uranium for a pressurized water reactor.6 During the sustained chain
reaction in an operating reactor, the U-235 splits into highly radioactive fission products,
There are currently 69 pressurized water reactors (PWR) and 35 boiling water reactors (BWR)
licensed to operate in the United States. U.S. Nuclear Reactors, U.S. Department of Energy,
Energy Information Administration, at [http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/page/nuc_reactors/
reactsum.html], viewed Nov. 29, 2004.
A metric ton (1,000 kilograms) is approximately equivalent to 2,200 pounds.
The splitting of the nucleus of a heavy atom into two lighter nuclei.
Energy Information Administration, Department of Energy, Nuclear Fuel Data Survey Form
RW-859 (OMB No. 1901-0287).
Humboldt Bay Assembly Class.
Babcock & Wilcox 15 x 15 Assembly Class.
while the U-238 is partially converted to plutonium-239 by neutron capture, some of
which also fissions. Further neutron capture creates other transuranic elements.7
Commercial nuclear power reactors are refueled on a frequency of 18 to 24 months.
During refueling, approximately one-third of the fuel (spent nuclear fuel) is replaced. The
spent fuel is moved to a storage pool adjacent to the reactor to allow for thermal cooling,
and decay of short-lived radionuclides. Due to the limited storage capacity at some
reactor pools, reactor operators may transfer cooled spent fuel to specially designed casks
licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for dry storage.
Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installations
The NRC has licensed 30 independent spent fuel storage installations (ISFSIs) in 23
states.8 Most of ISFSIs use dry cask storage and are co-located at the reactor site. The
General Electric Company operates a wet pool ISFSI in Morris, Illinois (GE Morris
Operation), that stores commercial spent fuel from a number of reactors. Private Fuel
Storage, LLC (PFS), a group of eight electric utility companies that have partnered with
the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians, has applied for an NRC license to build and
operate an ISFSI on the Indian Tribe’s reservation in Skull Valley, Utah.
Federally generated spent fuel originated from nuclear weapons production, the naval
reactor program, and Department of Energy (DOE)-sponsored research programs. The
spent fuel remains in interim storage at the Savannah River, Hanford, and Idaho National
Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) defense sites.9 Small quantities also
remain at the Argonne, Brookhaven, and Sandia National Laboratories, and various
university research reactors. The DOE operates the ISFSI for the former Fort St. Vrain
High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor in Colorado.
In comparison with commercial power reactor fuel, the Navy’s nuclear-powered
warships use highly enriched U-235 fuel in reactors that can operate without refueling for
their approximate 30-year life-cycles. The 103 naval reactors taken out of service are
almost equal in number to those currently operating. Approximately 65 metric tons of
spent fuel has been generated by the naval reactor program, which up until 1992 had been
reprocessed to remove highly enriched uranium, plutonium-239, or other transuranic
elements for reuse in the nuclear weapons program. Since 1992, approximately 9 metric
tons of naval spent fuel has been transferred to INEEL for interim storage.10
Transuranic refers to elements with atomic numbers higher than that of uranium (92 protons).
These include neptunium (93), plutonium (94), americium (95), and curium (96).
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 2004-2005 Information Digest, Figure 42 — Licensed
Operating Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installations.
Appendix A, Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and
High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada, U.S. Department of
Energy, Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (2002).
Detailed information obtained through specific request to the National Spent Nuclear Fuels
Spent Fuel Inventory at End of 2002
A total of 49,401 metric tons spent fuel had been discharged by commercial and
federal-related activities by the end of 2002, based on data compiled by the Energy
Information Administration11 and the National Spent Nuclear Fuels Program.12 (This does
not include spent fuel that had been reprocessed to remove plutonium for weapons
programs.) Commercial reactor storage pools separately accounted for 41,564 metric tons,
and ISFSIs (mostly co-located at reactor sites) accounted for another 5,363 metric tons.
Federal and other sites (national laboratories, defense sites, university research reactor and
industrial reactors) made up the balance of 2,474 metric tons (reported at 2003’s year
end). The data are displayed geographically in Figure 1 and summarized in Table 1. An
additional ~20 metric tons of foreign research reactor fuel is scheduled to be eventually
added to the overall inventory.13 University research reactor spent fuel is discussed in the
final section of this report.
Projected Inventory at End of 2004
No authoritative estimate of the spent fuel inventory exists for the end of 2004. EIA
reported 38,418 metric tons14 of commercial spent fuel discharged at 1998’s year-end, and
47,023 metric tons at 2002’s year-end. Averaging that difference over the four-year
period, commercial reactor facilities annually discharged 2,152 metric tons of spent fuel.
Projected on that basis, the cumulative amount of spent fuel from commercial and federal
activities could approach 54,000 metric tons by the end of 2004. The operation and
performance of individual reactors would affect this projection.
Program at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, available at [http://
nsnfp.inel.gov/snfData.asp], viewed Nov. 30, 2004.
Energy Information Administration Form RW-859, “Nuclear Fuel Data” (2002). Note that the
EIA reports an aggregate total of 47,023.4 metric tons spent fuel discharged from commercial
reactors over the period of 1968 to 2002; 46,268 metric tons stored at commercial reactor sites,
and 755.4 metric tons stored away from reactor sites. EIA does not distinguish between reactor
pool and ISFSI dry storage, or publish data on individual reactors. Refer to EIA Spent Nuclear
Fuel Data, Detailed United States as of December 31, 2002, at [http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/
nuclear/spent_fuel/ussnfdata.html], viewed Dec. 8, 2004.
National Spent Nuclear Fuels Program (see footnote 10).
The Record of Decision on a Nuclear Weapons Nonproliferation Policy Concerning Foreign
Research Reactor Spent Nuclear Fuel was issued by the Department of Energy on May 13, 1996.
Implementing this policy will involve acceptance of up to approximately 140 cubic meters or 19.8
metric tons heavy metal of spent fuel and target material from foreign research reactors. The
acceptance duration is 13 years from May 13, 1996.
Energy Information Administration EIA, Prior Years 1998 Table, at [http://www.eia.doe.gov/
cneaf/nuclear/spent_fuel/ussnfdata.html], viewed Nov. 24, 2004.
Figure 1. Reactor Storage Pools, Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installations, Federal, and Other Sites
(numbered labels refer to facilities in Table 1)
Table 1. Reactor Storage Pools, Independent Spent Fuel Storage
Installations, Federal, and Other Sites (2002)
1. Arkansas Nuclear One
2. Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant
3. J M Farley Nuclear Plant
4. Palo Verde Nuc Gen Station
5. Diablo Canyon Power Plant
6. GE Vallecitos Nuc Center
CA I fragments
7. Humboldt Bay Power Plant
8. Rancho Seco Nuc Gen Station CA I
9. San Onofre Nuc Gen Station
10. Fort St. Vrain Power Station CO F
11. Connecticut Yankee Atom Pwr CT P
12. Millstone Nuc Power Station CT P
13. Crystal River Nuc Power Plant FL P
14. St. Lucie Nuc Power Plant
15. Turkey Point Station
16. AW Vogtle Electric Gen Plant GA P
17. EL Hatch Nuclear Plant
18. D Arnold Energy Center
19. Idaho National Eng & Env
20. Argonne National Lab East
21. Braidwood Generating Sta
22. Byron Generating Station
23. Clinton Power Station
24. Dresden Generating Station
25. GE Morris Operation
26. LaSalle County Gen Sta
27. Quad Cities Gen Station
28. Zion Generating Station
29. Wolf Creek Gen Station
30. River Bend Station
31. Waterford Gen Sta
32. Pilgrim Nuclear Station
33. Yankee Rowe Nuc Power Sta MA I
34. Calvert Cliffs Nuc Pwr Plt
35. Maine Yankee Atomic Pwr Plt ME I
36. Big Rock Point Nuc Plt
37. D C Cook Nuclear Plant
38. Enrico Fermi Atomic Pwr Plt MI P
39. Palisades Nuclear Pwr Sta
40. Monticello Nuclear Gen Plant MN P
41. Prairie Isl. Nuc Gen Plt
42. Callaway Nuclear Plant
43. Grand Gulf Nuclear Station
44. Brunswick Stm Elec Plt
45. W B McGuire Nuc Sta
P 145,589 41,564.1
Federal and Other
F 220,238 2,473.9
46. Shearon Harris Nuc Pwr Plnt
47. Cooper Nuclear Station
48. Fort Calhoun Station
49. Seabrook Nuclear Station
50. Hope Creek Gen Station
51. Oyster Creek Generating Sta
52. Salem Nuc Generating Sta
53. Sandia National Laboratory
54. Brookhaven National Lab
55. JA Fitzpatrick Nuc Pwr Plant
56. Indian Point Energy Center
57. Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station
58. R E Ginna Nuclear Power Plant
59. Davis-Besse Nuclear Pwr Sta
60. Perry Nuclear Power Plant
61. Trojan Nuclear Power Plant
62. Beaver Valley Power Station
63. Limerick Generating Station
64. Peach Bottom Atm Pwr Sta
65. Susquehanna Steam Elec Sta
66. Three Mile Island Nuc Station
67. Catawba Nuclear Station
68. HB Robinson Steam Elec Plt
69. Oconee Nuclear Station
70. Savannah River Defense Site
71. VC Summer Nuclear Station
72. Sequoyah Nuclear Power Plant
73. Watts Bar Nuclear Plant
74. Comanche Peak Steam Elec Sta
75. South Texas Project
76. North Anna Power Station
77. Surry Power Station
78. Vermont Yankee Gen Station
79. Columbia Generating Station
80. Hanford Defense Site
81. Kewaunee Nuclear Power Plant
82. La Crosse Nuclear Gen Station
83. Point Beach Nuclear Plant
Other: University & Industry
Sources: Energy Information Administration, and DOE
National Spent Nuclear Fuels Program
MT: metric ton (1,000 kg)
The planned nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, NV, has been scheduled
to receive 63,000 metric tons commercial spent nuclear fuel and 2,333 metric tons DOE
spent-fuel.15 The Nuclear Waste Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 10101) prohibits disposal of more
than the equivalent of 70,000 metric tons in the Yucca Mountain repository until a second
repository is constructed. The balance of the 70,000 metric tons would be made up of the
high-level waste equivalent of defense-related reprocessed spent fuel.
University Research and Industry Spent Fuel
University research reactors, in aggregate, reported approximately 1.5 metric tons
of spent fuel. A few domestic reactors used for industrial purposes reported another 0.2
metric tons. Depending upon the facility, the spent fuel may either be pool or dry stored.
The fuel elements in the generic General Atomics TRIGA16 research reactor are initially
enriched to 20% uranium-235 as compared to 3%-4% in commercial PWR and BWR
fuel elements. Unlike conventional fuel, the fission rate of TRIGA fuel decreases with
rising temperature (an inherent design safety feature). Twenty universities use this type
of reactor. Other research reactors may use fuel with even higher uranium-235
enrichment. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) registers research reactors
throughout the world that are either operating, operationally shut down, or
decommissioned (decontaminated and dismantled).17 Of the 65 U.S. university reactors
registered with IAEA, 26 are operating, 12 are shut down, and 27 are decommissioned.
The 24 U.S. university reactors reported to the National Spent Nuclear Fuels Program are
listed in Table 2. Shut down reactors intended for decommissioning could increase the
spent fuel total.
Table 2. University Research Reactors Reporting Spent Fuel
University of ArizonaO
University of California (Irvine)O
University of California (Davis)O
University of FloridaO
University of Illinois (Urbana)D S
Kansas State UniversityD
Massachusetts Institute of
University of Massachusetts (Lowell)O
Worcester Polytechnic Institute*
University of Michigan*
University of MissouriS
North Carolina State UniversityO
State University of New York (Buffalo)S
Ohio State UniversityO
Oregon State UniversityO D
Pennsylvania State UniversityO
Rhode Island Nuclear Science CenterO
University of Texas (Austin)D
University of UtahO D
University of WisconsinO
Source: National Spent Nuclear Fuels Program
: operating D: decommissioned S: shut *: unknown status
Appendix A — Inventory and Characteristics of Spent-fuel, High Level Radioactive Waste, and
Other Materials; Final Environmental Impact Statement for a Geologic Repository for the
Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, Nye
County, Nevada, DOE/EIS-0250 (February 2002).
Training, Research, Isotopes, General Atomics.
International Atomic Energy Administration, Nuclear Research Reactors in the World, at
[http://www.iaea.org/worldatom/rrdb/], viewed Dec. 8, 2004.