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Mr. LAWRENCE. The cask that is the prime concept right now would be made of concrete. However, as I indicated, we are looking at the development of metal casks which would also be suitable for transport. I don't have the specifications. They haven't been developed yet. It would depend upon the age of the fuel and the quantity of fuel per cask.
Senator JOHNSTON. It would be thick enough to shield it against radiation. It would be radiation-proof outside that cask?
Mr. LAWRENCE. Sir, there is always some radiation, but a person could walk
Senator JOHNSTON. There is not always some radiation. There is no radiation from what we had in mind. Four feet of earth will protect you from radiation.
Mr. LAWRENCE. Sir, a person could walk between the casks, but you would not have people
Senator JOHNSTON. Better to run between the casks. (Laughter.)
PUBLIC PERCEPTION Senator JOHNSTON. One of the big problems with nuclear waste is the public perception. The technology for storage of nuclear waste is a relatively simple problem which virtually all the serious scientists agree upon. But all of this drill we are going through and all of these contortions—the hoops we are required to jump through, are required because of public perception, public perception being that nuclear waste is like a poison gas that lasts forever and that can escape and reach out and grab you, as somebody put it in one of these hearings.
Do you think the public is going to be pretty well satisfied with these casks sitting out on the desert somewhere, just out in the air, with radiation leaking? Can't you hear them now when they say, “Is radiation leaking from these casks?”
Mr. LAWRENCE. Sir, radiation would not be leaking from the casks. From a vault or from a repository, there could always be some radiation for a person in the facility itself, or in the field, but within acceptable limits, as specified by the NRC.
One of the benefits of these concepts, sir, is that we have in the past and can now take people to our Nevada test site. They can go out; they can see these storage concepts which the Department has developed and which have been under test now for some time. They can see it. We have long-term performance data on it. It has gotten a good reception from those members of the public who have taken the opportunity to look at it.
PROGRAM ORGANIZATION Senator JOHNSTON. Is it still the plan to have the Director of the Office of Civilian Nuclear Waste Management also run the uranium enrichment program?
Mr. LAWRENCE. Sir, that will be Secretary Hodel's decision, but he did indicate at hearings on Monday that he was proposing that. At this
point in time, he would not actually plan to do that until a director is confirmed by the Senate, and he indicated that he was not locked into that decision. He had his reasons for proposing that, but I am not actually involved in that decision process and don't know if he still intends to do that.
MRS SITE Senator JOHNSTON. Are you hoping to build the MRS at a repository site?
Mr. LAWRENCE. No, sir. That is precluded by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. So sites would be looked at in States in which a repository was not being considered.
Senator JOHNSTON. Senator Huddleston?
Senator JOHNSTON. I have a number of questions here for Mr. Brewer, written questions, on the breeder reactor program, and also some on uranium enrichment. We'll submit those to you for a response.
HIGH TEMPERATURE GAS REACTORS But I notice you have $35 million for HTGR, which is a change from the past. Why the change? Because Congress has put it in in the past?
Mr. BREWER. You just broke the code, Mr. Chairman. That, and the inherent technical attributes of the system. As you know, for the past 5 or 8 years this administration, and the previous administration, submitted a zero budget for the HTGR. Congress has repeatedly added the money back.
We feel that, for one thing, the program is unmanageable with that way of doing business. The program managers on the one hand are planning on termination at the same time that they are conducting an ongoing program.
The administration has decided to get in front of the power curve rather than behind it, to get out and lead rather than to follow. The technology has a number of attributes which you are quite familiar with. It has a very benign coolant. It is a nonradioactive coolant. You can walk up to the components and work on them hands on. Long response times for accident conditions and so forth. High-temperature applications, which sodium and water cannot reach.
Senator JOHNSTON. How much of the program will be directed at the so-called small, inherently safe HTGR?
Mr. BREWER. The vector for the program is toward the small reactor size. I would say in fiscal year 1985 about two-thirds of the $35 million. I will clarify that for the record. But we will carry along as a reference the lead plant, the large plant design work. [The information follows:)
HTGR REQUEST The fiscal year 1985 high temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) program will concentrate on a comparative evaluation of small reactor systems that will have enhanced, passive, safety characteristics relative to the reference 2,240 MWt lead plant. Work will also continue on a technology program that is supportive of all types of HTGR plants as well as specific technology issues needed to be resolved that are unique to each small reactor concept. In this context, at least two-thirds of the total fiscal year 1985 funding can be considered applicable to the small modular reactor activities.
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Senator JOHNSTON. I was pleased to see the administration get on board with HTGR. I think it is clearly an alternative that needs to be pursued. To call it the small, inherently safe, or to call it the other inherently safe, I want to tell my friends here in light-water breeder reactors that that doesn't imply that light-water reactors are inherently dangerous. It is a great safety record. I think there is some resistance on the part of people in the light-water business to say if you even talk about HTGR, it means the country is making the decision to abandon lightwater reactors. That is not true at all. But I think it is prudent to examine what could be a very feasible alternative.
The phrase, indeed, inherently safe, relates more to fiscal safety, financial safety, as defined by Wall Street, than it does to actual harm to people. And it may indeed be more demonstrably safe to Wall Street to build than light-water reactors. But only time would tell that. In the meantime, I think we have to pursue that alternative.
I personally think that is a more immediate alternative than some of the money we spend on fusion, which doesn't mean we should abandon, in my view, the fusion program. But it does mean that fusion is sort of the basic science research program that is out in the dim future somewhere without a real purpose. You know, you can talk in vague terms about what we might do with fusion, but you can talk in real direct terms about what we can do with light-water and HTGR's. So I am glad to see you doing that.
FUTURE OF NUCLEAR ENERGY What do you see for the future of nuclear energy? Do you see a comeback or continued phaseout?
Mr. BREWER. Mr. Chairman, I said a while ago that if we have a 3percent growth rate in electrical demand, and I believe the last two quarters of 1983 were, in fact, 3 percent compared to the preceding year. If 3 percent or more is sustained over the next decade, we will have to double our capacity, the national capacity, in 25 years. That means another 500 gigawatts will be needed. Where are they going to come from? And that says nothing about replacing retired plants. That is new capacity.
Senator JOHNSTON. I happen to think you are right, that nuclear energy will have to make a comeback. But I fear the country is going to have to go through this cycle of saying, “No, you can't have nuclear energy.” So, therefore, you go wholly to coal. And when they go wholly to coal, that increases the acid rain problem. Only then do you realize that we cannot depend 100 percent on coal. We are going to have to have a nuclear option for a balanced energy program. Whether that is sooner or later, in terms of years when that is going to become apparent to the public, which is the ultimate judge, I don't know. But I think the country will come to that conclusion. Especially in the meantime we
can get some of the non-safety-related delays out of the way in building nuclear plants, and many of those, as you well know and as you suggest by the legislation that you sent up here, are non-safety-related. They are public related
Mr. BREWER. And they are financially related—the inability of utilities to form capital or keep a project on schedule for financial reasons.
Senator JOHNSTON. That is right.
ADDITIONAL PREPARED QUESTIONS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD Senator JOHNSTON. Gentlemen, thank you very much. We also will put those additional questions in the record.
Mr. BREWER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. [The questions and answers follow:]
QUESTIONS SUBMITTED BY SENATOR JOHNSTON
Light Water Reactors
Question: Mr. Brewer, as I see it, we have two problems--the present and the future.
In October 1981 President Reagan stated his support for both light water and breeder reactors. In light water, the state of affairs is more serious today than in 1981. What is the President's Council doing to help develop this energy issue?
Answer: This Administration has taken a significant step to help resolve one of the problems confronting the nuclear Industry today. In March of 1983, a nuclear licensing and regulatory reform legislative proposal was submitted to the Congress. It would provide a more efficient, stable, and predictable nuclear licensing process. The objective of this nuclear licensing and reform legislation is to provide for continued improvements in public health and safety and to enhance public participation in the nuclear licensing process. Some activity on both the Administration's and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's nuclear licensing proposal has begun in the Congress. We would urge rapid consideration of this most important legislative proposal. The President's Economic Recovery Plan has resulted in improved economic conditions that have resulted in an increased growth in electrical demand. This increased electrical demand will require public utility commissions to find methods to complete existing nuclear powerplant projects and to provide additional capital for both coal and nuclear plants.
Question: Where is limited funding for light water research and development? Are you abandoning the technical fixes which can help us today? (Extended fuel life is an example.)
Answer: As I have indicated earlier, the major problems confronting the light water reactor industry today are institutional, financial, and regulatory, and not technical. That is the reason why there is very limited funding for light water research and development. The Loss-of-Fluid-Test or LOFT international program is an example of an R&D program that would provide a better technical basis for nuclear licensing and regulatory requirements. The extended burnup program has been a success and the commercial fuel vendors at the present time are offering extended burnup fuel. Although there are benefits in terms of a modest reduction in power costs and less radioactive wastes for extended burnup fuels, these are not compelling issues that are preventing the further expansion of nuclear power in the United States.
Breeder Reactor Program
Question: Now that clinch River is being terminated, what is being done to direct the breeder program so that we do not waste 30 years of development and billions of dollars of research?
Answer: It is indeed recognized that government investment in the breeder program has been substantial over the years. For example, funds spent on building major breeder facilities alone-