Research Quantities of Commercial Nuclear Fuel


The state of Idaho and the U.S. Department of Energy have reached an agreement for allowing small quantities of spent commercial nuclear fuel to come to Idaho National Laboratory for research. These “research quantities” of irradiated fuel are miniscule compared to the inventory of spent fuel that has historically been stored on site. This page contains more information about the shipments, the research and the agreement with the state.


Background

In 1995, the state of Idaho, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Department of Energy reached an agreement that settled a lawsuit filed by the state to limit the shipment of spent nuclear fuel to DOE’s Idaho Site for storage.

Known as the 1995 Settlement Agreement, the document governs spent fuel shipments bound for what was then the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory or for the Naval Reactors Facility.

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INL’s Mission

DOE and industry rely on INL to conduct America’s nuclear energy research, development and demonstration. More than 50 advanced nuclear companies across North America are examining advanced reactor concepts, often in partnership with INL and other national laboratories.

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The Research

As the nation’s largest source of low-carbon, 24-7 electricity, nuclear energy is an important part of the solution to the nation’s energy challenges. Today’s commercial nuclear fuels are more efficient than those of the past, which has reduced costs for utilities and their customers.

To maintain safe storage at utility locations around the U.S., the industry and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) need to better understand the physical and chemical characteristics of this high-efficiency nuclear fuel. INL research on 25 rods of used nuclear fuel — containing about 100 pounds of heavy metal — could help answer these important scientific questions.

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Updated Agreement

In November 2019, DOE and the state of Idaho signed a Supplemental Agreement to the 1995 Idaho Settlement Agreement that reaffirms DOE’s and the state’s commitment to remove Cold War legacy waste and special nuclear materials from Idaho. This agreement ensures continued protection of the Snake River Plain Aquifer while supporting Idaho National Laboratory’s ability to fulfill its mission as the nation’s nuclear energy research and development laboratory.

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