United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Report on Waste Burial Charges: Changes in Decommissioning Waste Disposal Costs at Low-Level Waste Burial Facilities (Final Report, NUREG-1307, Revision 15)

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Publication Information

Manuscript Completed: December 2012
Date Published:
January 2013

Prepared by:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Jason A. Gastelum and Steven Short

NRC Project Manager:
Jo Ann Simpson

Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001

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Abstract

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) requires nuclear power reactor licensees to annually adjust the estimate of the cost of decommissioning their plants, in dollars of the current year, as part of the process providing reasonable assurance that adequate funds for decommissioning will be available when needed. This report, which is revised periodically, explains the formula acceptable to the NRC for determining the minimum decommissioning fund requirements for nuclear power plants. The sources of information used in the formula are identified, and the values developed for the estimation of radioactive waste burial/disposition costs, by site and year, are given. Licensees may use the formula, coefficients, and burial/disposition adjustment factors from this report in their cost analyses, or they may use adjustment factors derived from any methodology that results in a total cost estimate of no less than the amount estimated by using the parameters presented in this report.

This 15th revision of NUREG-1307 contains disposal costs updated to the year 2012 for the reference pressurized-water reactor (PWR) and the reference boiling-water reactor (BWR). Two different options for estimating these costs are presented. The first option assumes that 100% of the low-level waste (LLW) generated during decommissioning is disposed of at one of the two compact-affiliated disposal facilities, located in Richland, Washington, and Barnwell, South Carolina. Ratios of year 2012 disposal costs to the original year 1986 disposal costs (i.e., Bx factors) are also provided. For historical purposes, disposal costs for the reference reactors and ratios of disposal costs at the Washington and South Carolina sites for the years 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010 are provided.

The second option provides for disposing of LLW using a combination of non-compact and compact-affiliated disposal facilities. This option, which is accepted as a rational alternative for licensees to pursue, allows nuclear power plant (NPP) licensees to take advantage of potentially lower disposal costs for much of their decommissioning LLW. As with the first option, ratios of the alternative disposal costs to the original year 1986 disposal costs (i.e., Bx factors) are provided.

Several sample calculations for estimating the burial/disposition cost for both options are presented, demonstrating the use of the data contained in this report.

Estimated disposal costs for 2012 using only the Washington disposal site, which accepts LLW from members of the Northwest and Rocky Mountain Compacts, are about 9 percent lower for the reference PWR and 10 percent lower for the reference BWR when compared to 2010 costs. The decreases in disposal costs were driven by decreases in volume and container charges at the Washington disposal site. Disposal costs for the option in which a portion of decommissioning LLW is disposed of at a non-compact disposal facility are about 12 percent higher for the PWR and 11 percent higher for the BWR when compared to 2010 costs. The increases are due to increases in the non-compact disposal facility rates.

Estimated disposal costs for 2012 using only the South Carolina disposal site, which accepts LLW from members of the Atlantic Compact, are about 12 percent higher for both the reference PWR and reference BWR when compared to 2010 costs. The increases in disposal costs were driven by increases in weight, curie, and irradiated hardware charges at the South Carolina site. Disposal costs for the option in which a portion of the decommissioning LLW is disposed of at a non-compact disposal facility are about 13 percent higher for both the PWR and BWR when NUREG-1307 iv compared to 2010 costs. The increases are due to increases in the non-compact disposal facility rates.

Currently, NUREG-1307, Revision 15, assumes that LLW generated during plant operations is disposed of using operating funds. Plants that have no disposal site available for LLW are now forced to provide interim storage for this waste (although most Class A waste can be disposed of at the non-compact disposal facility located in Clive, Utah). If additional disposal sites do not become available before permanent plant shutdown, this waste ultimately will need to be disposed of during decommissioning. This volume can become significant for plants operating through extended license terms, and the disposal cost would not be accounted for in a decommissioning trust fund based on the formula calculation.

For plants that have no disposal site available for Class B and C LLW (e.g., plants not located within the Atlantic and Northwest Compacts), NUREG-1307, Revision 15, assumes that the cost for disposal of this waste is the same as that for the Atlantic Compact, for lack of a better alternative at this time. As new disposal options become available, they will be incorporated into subsequent revisions of NUREG-1307.

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Wednesday, February 06, 2013