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Mr. AHEARNE. I will separate that into several pieces because I can only comment on one piece of it.
My committee-we have not looked at the detailed designs of the four types, so I can't speculate on the length of time, your 10-year question. The one element that I can comment on is that certainly the HTGR, the light water reactor, and the liquid metal reactor have in various forms gone through NRC reviews, and codes have been written and safety analyses done for them. As the National Academy pointed out, the HWR has not gone through that kind of review and safety analyses. Consequently, the probability of a safety review delay strictly on the reactor is greater for the heavy water.
The converse is that effects of a tritium target fuel have not been analyzed for any of the other three types. The input of that on the behavior of the codes. new code calculations, is some area of delay, Senator.
Senator JOHNSTON. With respect to time, is there a significant difference between HWR and HTGR?
Mr. AHEARNE. Yes; just in layman's terms. Senator, I just can't answer. The construction time, the design time, I have not looked at that. All I can say is that it is certainly going to take an additional time than for the others to validate codes and go through code development and analysis development for the heavy water reactor.
Mr. SCHOETTLER. If I could just add. There was an observation by the Advisory Board that the building of the system for the first time in HTGR for NPR perhaps will lead to design and technology problems which could also have the possibility of delaying its safety review process. I think that was a factor that the Advisory Board looked at and contrasted the maturity of that technology from an experience factor as compared to the HWR.
Senator JOHNSTON. I am just reading from your strengths and weaknesses table of the report. Both can be done relatively safely although safety would probably favor the HTGR. Am I correct on that?
Mr. AHEARNE. Safety itself would have to be a result of having gone through all the reviews. As the Board pointed out, none of these systems have gone through the detailed reviews which would lead you to conclude where safety would come out. The big advantage of three of the designs is that the codes have already been, to a large extent, developed and verified.
Senator JOHNSTON. Tell me about the costs because cost seems to be a problem here. Could you compare the costs?
Mr. SCHOETTLER. Mr. Chairman, the cost figures, due to the amount of time we had to do this study, were taken from the proponents, and the project definition has really not been completed by DOE. On the types of individual reactors that were proposed, the cost figures vary very widely. In the Energy Research Advisory Board's analyses in consideration there is such wide variations that there was no comparison.
I was going to say that the greatest uncertainty, perhaps, was the amount of time that it would take to build and get into production of NPR just because of the uncertainties in safety review and technology that we are faced with. The other aspect was costs, and I think the construction costs were, perhaps, $2 billion, and all of the reactors fall into that category. Research and development might be anywhere from $100 to $500 million.
Senator JOHNSTON. Do you have an opinion as to which one would cost the most? Can you give us an opinion?
Mr. SCHOETTLER. No, I can't.
Senator JOHNSTON. Can you, Mr. Ahearne?
Senator JOHNSTON. Can anybody tell me? In other words, the cost is not a consideration in choosing one or the other. If we had to choose today, and you tried to add all the factors, would cost be a consideration, or you just don't know?
Mr. SALGADO. I think the cost in our ballpark analysis is not a discriminator.
Senator JOHNSTON. What is the discriminator here?
Mr. SALGADO. I think the discriminator here is the reasonable assurance that we are going to be able to produce tritium for a given period of time, not for 2 or 3 years, but for 10 or 15 years from the facility we build. We have to have that kind of assurance because that is a commitment that we have to make to this country from the DOE standpoint, that there is an assured supply of tritium, either needed or have that capability not only from 1998 on, but for another 10 or 20 years beyond that, and that is the driving force, that we have the ability to maintain our nuclear deterrent if so needed.
Senator JOHNSTON. Obviously, the production of tritium between now and 1998 is not going to depend onthis new reactor. It is going to depend on the aging reactors over there at Savannah River.
If we were to make a choice right here today on which kind of reactor we were going to go to, you would say that cost is no discriminator, time is no discriminator, as I have gathered here, the discriminator is the assurance of the supply of tritium beginning roughly from 1998 on.
Mr. SALGADO. I think there are so many assets and liabilities to each technology that I think the real issue that it boils down to, when the Secretary has to make a decision, is the confidence level to be able to produce the quantities of tritium that are needed for the national security of this country either through one reactor or two reactors. I think that is basically what the driving force in the decisionmaking process has to be.
Senator JOHNSTON. Do you have an opinion as to which one is the more reliable?
Mr. SALGADO. More reliable?
Senator JOHNSTON. Which is the better choice?
Mr. SALGADO. The program has brought forth a proposal that has been discussed both in the interagency activity as to what their belief is. Do I have it? No. In fact, I have not had the full benefit of all the indepth consultations that have taken place between all the various components.
Senator JOHNSTON. Mr. Schoettler, what would your advice be, or do you have any advice?
Mr. SCHOETTLER. I am not in a position, Mr. Chairman, to give advice on the selection of a particular technology. What the Department and Secretary asked us to do was to evaluate those technologies, and that was just one aspect of it. There was also site evaluation.
There are national security interests in the amount of goal quantities of tritium, and all of those factors and issues determine what final choice will be made for the technology. We were just solely involved and specifically removed from the site evaluation team efforts.
Senator JOHNSTON. Does anyone else on the panel have any advice different from that?
Mr. AHEARNE. No.
PASSIVELY SAFE REACTOR
Senator JOHNSTON. Dr. Graham?
Let me tell you where my thinking is, and I have a lot more to learn as I am sure the committee does, and that is, we need what I would call a passively safe, and what others would call inherently safe, reactor because we are going to need nuclear energy. We have global warming, we have all of those problems.
We are going to spend some billions of dollars on a defense reactor, and we have the possibility of developing a technology along with that which will serve that civilian use. We don't have enough money to build both, apparently, we don't.
So if there is a relative equality in the two-some have pluses here and some have minuses there, but if there is no clear choice on safety, schedule, all of that, why in the world not go with the one that is passively safe. It seems very clear to me, at least.
Mr. SALGADO. Mr. Chairman, that is what is under review right now, and those are the considerations. There have been numerous discussions on the benefit to the commercial and the future of the country on the commercial energy side as well as that. That is currently what is ongoing now and the dialogues that are taking place.
There is a whole series of parameters and a series of options that we are looking at. But that is the dialogue; you are absolutely correct.
Mr. WADE. Mr. Chairman, we have looked at 14 options. We have taken, as part of the internal process, Mr. Schoettler's report, the site report, the cost report, and we are now adding to that input from our consultations in the past week or so with Dr. Graham's office, with Dr. Duncan's office, and others, and we have come up with a matrix of 14 options which include single reactors, multiple reactors, different tech
Honorable J. Bennett Johnston, Chairman
LETTER FROM SENATOR SAM NUNN
PERSONAL ATTENTION AND HAND DELIVERED
This letter is in reference to your hearing on Tuesday, July 26, 1988, to discuss the New Production Reactor (NPR) and the report recently published by the Energy Research Advisory Board (ERAB).
July 25, 1988
The report outlined a number of major issues which are vitally important to the decision on where the NPR will be located and which technology will be utilized. Most importantly, the report indicated the following:
1. An urgent need exists for an NPR and a secure source of tritium.
The Heavy Water Reactor (HWR) presents the least
The HWR offers the greatest possibility of meeting
Thank you for your consideration of the points that I have
stressed, and I hope you have an opportunity to make them a part of
your deliberation during the hearing.
LIGHT WATER REACTOR TECHNOLOGY
Senator JOHNSTON. Senator McClure.
Senator MCCLURE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and I agree with the statement that you have just made.
I am a little puzzled by one thing that came out of the ERAB report, Mr. Schoettler, and perhaps you can enlighten me. You have indicated that the WNP-1 light water technology could, perhaps, be a winner in terms of time. At least it is one of the two leading in terms of time, and yet there is nothing that has even been done with the light water reactor target producing tritium.
If I understand you correctly, you really can't address that question until one has been built, completed, and tested, then you can deal with. questions of the safety code on the target. Yet, the completion of a plant is 4 years away, so you can't even start the verification work until you have completed the plant and put a target in and operate it. Is that not correct?
Mr. SCHOETTLER. That is correct, or the target would have to be put into some civilian reactor, and that was one of the risks for that light water reactor scenario.
Senator MCCLURE. But if it isn't put into a civilian reactor and tested there, then you lose whatever possible time advantage WNP-1 would have?
Mr. SCHOETTLER. That is correct.
Senator MCCLURE. Otherwise it would be sequential rather than going on concurrently.
Mr. SCHOETTLER. Excuse me. The time advantage of the WNP-1 is that it is approximately 63-percent complete. There are various schedules of completeness, but overall the average is 63 percent. It appeared that the plant could be completed on a shorter time scale, but then, you are correct, the target technology qualification testing would have to take place within the WNP-1.
Senator MCCLURE. So it would depend upon our willingness or capacity, one or the other, or both, of being able to work the concurrent work on the target in a presently operating plant.
Mr. SCHOETTLER. That is correct.
Senator MCCLURE. I don't want to get into the uncertainties that are involved about the legality, or the legal questions surrounding WNP-1, I have lived with that for some years, and they still are unresolved.
I would also say that I don't want to get into the question of whether Senator Hatfield likes it or not, because he has already spoken for himself. I think Senator Adams has spoken for himself on that subject very forcefully. I gather that they have some idea that they would delay that process, or at least increase its hazardness. I think that that would be, perhaps, the minimum amount that I can say.