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the target technology for the advanced reactors that had to take place, but the overall timeframes did not vary particularly. If you did go to modularity or to smaller sizes, there was a thought that there could be an incremental production of the modular type reactors where some would begin to come on line or into production prior to others.

If the HTGR were used to produce full goal quantities of tritium for U.S. needs, there would, perhaps, be as many as eight of the modular HTGR's in two separate four-group blocks. The initial ones as they were produced and put on stream could begin producing tritium, so you wouldn't have to wait 10 or 12 years to get all eight to produce tritium, you could begin, perhaps, as early as 7, 8, or 9 years from the time the decision was made.

BENEFITS TO NUCLEAR POWER PRODUCTION

Senator JOHNSTON. I am taking too long here, so I am going to give up the floor, except to say that I am expressing a desire for an inherently safe technology to be developed out of this, if possible. I mean not at all to prefer one site over the other, and I want to say that for my friend from South Carolina, because I don't want to have to bear the burden of that argument in trying to build an inherently safe reactor.

We need, in my view, to go to nuclear energy. We are having global warming hearings in the Energy Committee right now, and that is one of the obvious conclusions that comes up, that you need to go to nuclear energy. The light water reactors, while they have a very good safety record, are not perceived as being safe, and the regulatory scheme is such that they can't be built quickly enough because of the safety problems.

So, if we can develop an inherently safe reactor, I think that we ought to do it. It would be worth it to do it, but I don't, as I said, prefer one site over the other in trying to solve the energy problems of the country.

Senator McClure.

FUTURE DIRECTION OF PRODUCTION TECHNOLOGIES

Senator MCCLURE. Thank you very much.

I have a number of questions, and I will try to ask what I think are the most important ones first, and then yield to my friend from South Carolina so that he can ask some questions, too, in the time that we have available. I hope I don't overlook some of the more important questions in trying to fit it within the timeframe.

I, again, want to express my thanks to each of you for your willingness to be here and to participate in this process. But I don't really want to dwell on the question of the current safety of the Savannah River reactors, because I think that it is essential to understand that the production at Savannah River reactors is currently absolutely essential to the security of this country. I don't want the President of the United States, this one or any future one, to have to compromise public safety in order to meet national security goals.

I don't want to either understate or brush aside the very legitimate concerns that many have suggested with respect to the operation of the Savannah River plants today, but rather than dwell upon the past and where that leaves us today, I want to concentrate for a moment on what that should tell us our direction should be toward the future.

There is a timelag. We are stuck with the condition we have now. We can't escape that, because there is a timelag to come to the replacement. I don't even want to go back over the decision that was made a few years ago not to go forward with the NPR, because I think everybody now knows we should. There is no debate on that issue. So the question is how to go about it, rather than whether or not we should do it.

One of the problems I have that grows out of this discussion is to try to make certain that people understand that my goal isn't simply to get a reactor built in Idaho. I keep getting that from my friend from South Carolina, and it just isn't true. I want this country to build essential facilities for the security of this country in the best possible way. If that happens to fit in Idaho, fine, I would welcome it, so would everyone I know of in Idaho, except the few who are against anything that is nuclear, and there are some who are against anything that is nuclear.

HEAVY WATER REACTOR DESIGN IMPROVEMENTS

In that context, we ought to look not as a criticism of the current reactors, or a criticism of heavy water reactors, because I don't want to be understood as opposing heavy waier reactors. I do want to be understood, however, that there are some real questions in the choice of technology. I think that it is fair to say that before you can move forward on a new heavy water reactor, you would have to do things that haven't been done with respect to the current heavy water reactors.

Mr. Schoettler, is that not correct?

Mr. SCHOETTLER. Yes. I think that the National Academy report pointed out either design flaws or safety problems with those reactors, as you observe, and now having identified those safety issues, it is my understanding that they are being addressed by computer analysis in the hopes that they could be overcome in the design for a new or advanced HWR.

VRC REVIEW Senator McClure. It may well be that the building of reactors to meet the nation's security requirements, the materials requirements for our weapon stockpile, that we will not subject those plants to NRC review. I don't know what that decision will ultimately be, but they are going to either go through an NRC review, or something that parallels an NRC review. Is there any disagreement among anybody on this panel with that statement?

Mr. SALGADO. The Department's position is that given the creation of the new Nuclear Safety Board, which will be enacted with the signing of the defense authorization bill, that that is an independent body appointed by the President, and confirmed by Congress, and will probably be the Board upon which are the dynamics of safety, so we will use that Board.

Mr. SCHOETTLER. There also did not seem to be a very strong proponent of the liquid metal reactor for use as an NPR as opposed to use for a civilian reactor. That was a distinction also that the panel drew.

a Senator McCLURE. I think that it is probably fair to say that in that hierarchy, if indeed there is to be one, and I guess that is what you, Mr. Secretary, are going to have to try to determine and sort out, that the light water reactors are probably next least ready, or slightly less ready than the heavy water, or HTGR, in terms of the preliminary work that has been done and the length of time that it would take to verify the work.

Mr. SCHOETTLER. Senator, we did not attempt to rank or compare and contrast the individual technologies. We were not asked to do that. I don't mean to avoid your question, but we were asked to evaluate the benefits and risks of each of those technologies, and the benefits of the light water reactor was that we had over 100 of them operating in this country.

One of the risks involved with it, if we can characterize it as that, is that the target technology had not been developed and it would have to be installed in either the WNP-1 after it were completed, or find a civilian nuclear reactor in which you could test that target technology, which would be very difficult.

The thrust of the ERAB report was not to attempt to really rank the different technologies as much as it was to try and aid the Department of Energy and the Secretary in making judgments as to which would best be suited for the production of tritium.

Senator McCLURE. I don't suppose you are going to run up to Long Island and test a new target at Shoreham. [Laughter.]

Mr. SCHOETTLER. No; I don't think they would let us.

C REACTOR EMBRITTLEMENT

Senator MCCLURE. I have just one question, and let me cede the time to my colleague from South Carolina, and that has to do with what is the central concern I have tried to express, and that is to make certain that our country has production capacity which is available to meet the essential needs of this country at any given time in the future, recognizing that there are uncertainties in whatever we decide to do.

If all four of the Savannah River reactors had been designed as the C Reactor, and all four had been built on the same design and had developed the flaw that has developed in the C Reactor, is it not correct to say they would all be shut down today?

Mr. SALGADO. The only difference, I think, would probably be that it is my understanding that embrittlement, because of that unique design, was caused over the long use. L Reactor being 17 years younger, and there is a question of when the neutrons basically are the most intense, but L Reactor will probably have a little longer life.

If they all operate the same amount of time, I think that there is a reasonable assumption that, yes, Senator, they would all be down.

a

Senator McCLURE. I don't want to lead you into statements that might lead us into trouble. I don't want any more trouble than we have. But I do want us to understand that if a heavy water reactor is the reactor of choice—and I won't resist that choice if that is what you choose, Mr. Secretary-but I do want people to understand that it would require a redesigned fuel in a redesigned plant.

Mr. Salgado. I am advised that the flow, the cooling flow, obviously, would have to be changed. and I believe the National Academy addressed that. Whether or not the fuel has to be changed is questionable, sir.

Senator MCCLURE. But under the plant design, a meltdown of the fuel could occur.

Mr. SALGADO. Given a scenario of loss of cooling flow, I believe that is correct.

Senator MCCLURE. Those fuels, there is nothing that we know today that can meet the safety requirements of the safety codes and verification of safety codes if a meltdown of the fuel should occur?

Mr. WADE. Senator, one of the problems at Savannah River is that the entire class of accidents have not been analyzed, and that is what we are undertaking at the moment. It is thought that given a class IX kind of accident, and because of the current design of the flow in the Savannah River reactors, that you would have a void, that you would get the fuel damage, and you would have some fuel melting. That is the reason that they are powered down to 50 percent, which we believe alleviates that problem, but we cannot confirm it at this point.

Senator MCCLURE. Mr. Wade, I think your answer is very careful and very accurate.

I don't mean to misstate or raise fears, but in order to build a new plant, meeting new standards for safety and the new review requirements that will be established on the new plant, you will be required to verify what you cannot now verify. That means the development of safety codes, and it means the verification of those codes. It may, and I stress “may,” because I think you are correct, it doesn't necessarily mean redesign of the fuel, but it may require redesign of the fuel, in the heavy water reactor.

I only say that because I want to stress what Mr. Schoettler said a moment ago, the conclusion of the ERAB panel, that there is very little difference in the timeframe or the difficulty in the design and the verification of design of the competing technologies.

COMPARISON OF COMPETING TECHNOLOGIES

I guess it would be fair to say, would it not, Mr. Schoettler, the conclusion of the panel was that there is very little difference, but I guess I would hazard this much, the liquid metal reactors have much less of the preliminary work done; is that correct?

Mr. SCHOETTLER. Yes, that was the conclusion of the panel.

Senator McCLURE. Therefore, it would require more work to bring the liquid metal reactors to the same state of readiness to move forward as the other candidates.

Mr. SCHOETTLER. There also did not seem to be a very strong proponent of the liquid metal reactor for use as an NPR as opposed to use for a civilian reactor. That was a distinction also that the panel drew.

Senator McCLURE. I think that it is probably fair to say that in that hierarchy, if indeed there is to be one, and I guess that is what you, Mr. Secretary, are going to have to try to determine and sort out, that the light water reactors are probably next least ready, or slightly less ready than the heavy water, or HTGR, in terms of the preliminary work that has been done and the length of time that it would take to verify the work.

Mr. SCHOETTLER. Senator, we did not attempt to rank or compare and contrast the individual technologies. We were not asked to do that. I don't mean to avoid your question, but we were asked to evaluate the benefits and risks of each of those technologies, and the benefits of the light water reactor was that we had over 100 of them operating in this country.

One of the risks involved with it, if we can characterize it as that, is that the target technology had not been developed and it would have to be installed in either the WNP-1 after it were completed, or find a civilian nuclear reactor in which you could test that target technology, which would be very difficult.

The thrust of the ERAB report was not to attempt to really rank the different technologies as much as it was to try and aid the Department of Energy and the Secretary in making judgments as to which would best be suited for the production of tritium.

Senator McClure. I don't suppose you are going to run up to Long Island and test a new target at Shoreham. [Laughter.]

Mr. SCHOETTLER. No; I don't think they would let us.

C REACTOR EMBRITTLEMENT Senator MCCLURE. I have just one question, and let me cede the time to my colleague from South Carolina, and that has to do with what is the central concern I have tried to express, and that is to make certain that our country has production capacity which is available to meet the essential needs of this country at any given time in the future, recognizing that there are uncertainties in whatever we decide to do.

If all four of the Savannah River reactors had been designed as the C Reactor, and all four had been built on the same design and had developed the flaw that has developed in the C Reactor, is it not correct to say they would all be shut down today?

Mr. Salgado. The only difference, I think, would probably be that it is my understanding that embrittlement, because of that unique design, was caused over the long use. L Reactor being 17 years younger, and there is a question of when the neutrons basically are the most intense, but L Reactor will probably have a little longer life.

If they all operate the same amount of time, I think that there is a reasonable assumption that, yes, Senator, they would all be down.

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