American Nuclear Society Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer Craig Piercy responded to the Department of Energy’s awarding the Society about $2 million to lead a team of universities in developing a replicable model for community engagement on nuclear storage, saying the work will help the DOE determine what consensus decision-making looks like in the siting process for facilities storing commercial spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.
The award was part of $26 million in DOE funding, announced on June 9, that will go to university, nonprofit, and private-sector groups to engage with communities interested in the DOE’s consent-based approach to siting one or more consolidated interim storage facilities.
“As the premier home for nuclear professionals, the American Nuclear Society is uniquely positioned to foster fact-based conversations with communities and constituencies on nuclear storage,” Piercy said.
The announcement of the awards follows the DOE’s first update to its consent-based siting process, released on April 25. The $16 million funding opportunity, later increased to $26 million, for groups interested in the process was first announced in September 2022.
ANS was one of 13 geographically and institutionally diverse awardees—representing 12 states and the District of Columbia—that were competitively selected by the DOE to advance the conversation around spent fuel storage.
ANS statement: In response to the award, Piercy added, “Holding constructive dialogues between nuclear professionals and communities across the country will help avoid confrontational standoffs over the transportation of spent fuel further down the line. We must engage with the public on nuclear storage if progress is to be made on an issue critical to our clean energy future.
“Our community engagement approach aims to help resolve our country’s impasse on nuclear storage by engaging the interests and values of potential host communities and other stakeholders.
“Our team will be engaging with Americans from all walks of life, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, faith communities, and the 80 host communities across the U.S. where spent fuel is currently stored.
“Our minority-serving institution partners at Northern Arizona University, the University of New Mexico, South Carolina State University, and City College of New York bring substantive existing connections within specific communities. For instance, the land-grant South Carolina State University is home to the only nuclear engineering program at a historically black university.
“We look forward to working with our university partners in doing the hard work in making progress on nuclear storage.”
The process: According to the DOE, communities expressing interest in consent-based siting participate in the process by working through a series of phases and steps with the department, helping them determine whether and how hosting a facility to manage spent nuclear fuel is aligned to their goals. The process consists of three stages: planning and capacity building, site screening and assessment, and negotiation and implementation.
The DOE is currently in the first stage and, consistent with that, is not currently soliciting volunteer communities to host federal consolidated interim storage facilities as part of this funding opportunity.
Awardees will represent a consent-based siting consortium and will collectively help the department facilitate engagement activities and dialogue. They will each lead inclusive community and stakeholder engagement efforts, elicit public feedback to refine the DOE’s consent-based siting process, and develop strategies that support mutual learning. The DOE and the consent-based siting consortia will work together throughout the process to build equity and environmental justice principles into the engagement processes, according to the department.
“It is vital that, as DOE works to be good stewards of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel, we do right by communities in the siting process and includes them in the decision-making at the outset,” said secretary of energy Jennifer Granholm. “This funding will help DOE learn from and involve communities across the country in the consent-based siting process, answer questions and concerns, and develop an understanding so that we are good neighbors even before moving in.”
The awardees: The project teams will each receive about $2 million and represent diverse organizations, a makeup the DOE hopes will enable a broad spectrum of perspectives and approaches. The following are the project teams that will receive awards:
- ANS as the lead, with South Carolina Universities Research and Education Foundation (SCUREF), Northern Arizona University, University of New Mexico, South Carolina State University, and City College of New York as partners.
- Arizona State University
- Boise State University as the lead, with the National Tribal Energy Association, Arizona State, Colorado State, Idaho State, Montana State, University of Idaho, University of Wyoming, and University of Michigan as partners.
- Clemson University as the lead, with SCUREF as partner.
- Energy Communities Alliance as the lead, with Environmental Council of the States, the DOE’s State and Tribal Government Working Group, National Association of Attorneys General, National Conference of State Legislatures, and National Governors Association as partners.
- Good Energy Collective as the lead, with the University of Notre Dame as partner.
- Holtec International as the lead, with University of Florida, McMahon Communications, Agenda Global, ANS, and the Nuclear Energy Institute as partners.
- Keystone Policy Center as the lead, with Social and Environmental Research Institute, GDFWatch, and the National Association of Regional Councils as partners.
- Missouri University of Science and Technology as the lead, with University of Missouri–Columbia, University of Illinois, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Nevada, Taylor Geospatial Institute, and St. Louis University as partners.
- North Carolina State University as the lead, with the yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini Northern Chumash Tribe of San Luis Obispo County and Region, Mothers for Nuclear, and the Tribal Consent Based Coalition–Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant as partners.
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as the lead, with Schenectady Foundation and Stockbridge–Munsee Community Band of Indians as partners.
- Southwest Research Institute of Texas as the lead, with Deep Isolation, Westra Consulting, Community Transition Planning, and Prairie Island Indian Community Tribal Nation as partners.
- Vanderbilt University as the lead, with Rutgers University and Oregon State University as partners.