238 Energy Policy

Efforts were underway for several years in the U.S. to develop a comprehensive energy program that would integrate the activities of the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal agencies, with contributions by the private sector. These initiatives culminated in the passage by Congress of the legislation entitled Energy Policy Act of 1992

(Public Law 102-486). It provided energy efficiency goals and standards, promoted alternative fuels, prescribed new R & D on electric vehicles, restructured the production of electricity, addressed radioactive waste disposal, established a uranium enrichment corporation, and simplified nuclear plant licensing. In essence, the law affirms the nation's commitment to preserve and extend the nuclear option as part of a broad energy mix. From the more than 350 pages of the Act, we can highlight the features that are related primarily to nuclear energy, with the understanding that some of the requirements of the law would inevitably be modified by subsequent congressional action.

Energy efficiency. This topic is addressed first and at considerable length. Standards, guidelines, and incentives are provided for conservation efforts in buildings, residences, appliances, and transportation. Utilities are encouraged to invest in energy conservation in power generation and supply, and state regulators urged to further such actions.

Electric cars. The expansion of usage of electric vehicles, those operating on motors with current supplied by batteries, is mandated by a 10-year commercial demonstration program. DOE is to work with manufacturers and the electric utility industry to develop practical inexpensive vehicles and the infrastructure that supports servicing and battery recharging. If fully implemented, a national program in electrification of transportation could make a major impact on fossil fuel demands and on atmospheric pollution.

Electrical generation. The early legislation that gave utilities an essential monopoly in their service area, the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935, is reformed to permit other organizations to generate electric power, under cognizance of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). For a brief description of FERC, see References. We will reserve discussion on the issue of diversity in generation as a part of energy economics in the next chapter.

High-level radioactive waste. The Act focuses on the use of the Yucca Mountain site for disposal of spent fuel. The Administrator of EPA is to provide safety standards for protection of the public, including the maximum annual effective dose equivalent, using recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences. NRC rules are to be consistent with those of EPA, including the recognition of the existence of engineered barriers and post-closure oversight. DOE is to assure Congress that waste disposal plans are adequate to cover new nuclear power plants. A small amount of money is allocated to low-level waste reduction. By omission of action by Congress, the states and compacts will continue to be guided by the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act and its Amendment.

U.S. Enrichment Corporation. This national organization is created "to operate as a business enterprise on a profitable and efficient basis." It can lease DOE enrichment facilities and market and sell enrichment services to anyone. It is to assess the future of AVLIS (See Section 9.4) and to put it on a commercial basis if appropriate. A national strategic uranium reserve is to be created. A decontamination and decommissioning fund with assessment to utilities is established, with a limit on total annual charge to $150 million, prorated according to use.

Fusion energy. A broadly based program is expected, with U.S. participation in the engineering design phase of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). Needs for strengthening cooperation with other countries are to be examined. In addition to magnetic confinement studies, R&D is authorized on both laser and heavy ion inertial confinement fusion.

Advanced nuclear reactors. Technologies to be pursued include medium-sized passive safety reactors, but can involve others as well, on a cost-sharing basis. Noteworthy is the attention given to the alternatives to light water reactors-high-temperature-gas-cooled reactors and liquid metal reactors. The reactors are to be cost effective, easy to design and license, safe, and proliferation-resistant. A date of 1996 is set for design and certification of the advanced LWRs by the NRC, with preliminary design of the other types.

Nuclear plant licensing. NRC is authorized to issue a combined construction and operating license, and to identify needed tests and analyses. A hearing would be held just before the plant goes into operation.

Authority over BRC wastes. States are to have authority over the regulation of wastes designated as below regulatory concern (BRC) by the NRC, with the latter's policies invalidated.

Plutonium shipments. A study is to be conducted by the President of the safety of shipments of plutonium by ships.

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