Protecting Public Health and the Environment.

Memorandum of Agreement Concerning Research Quantities of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel

On January 6, 2011, the state of Idaho and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) finalized a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) setting out conditions under which the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) may receive limited research quantities of used commercial fuel for examination, testing, and storage.


In 2002, DOE designated the INL as the nation’s leading laboratory for nuclear energy research. The INL has developed and possesses unique technologies and capabilities which can further the research, development, and testing of new fuel types and technologies.

The 1995 Settlement Agreement provides that DOE “will make no shipments of spent fuel from commercial nuclear power plants” to the INL.  This provision protects Idaho from becoming a repository for the nation’s commercial spent nuclear fuel. The 2011 MOA grants a limited waiver to this provision, as allowed under the 1995 Settlement Agreement, for small amounts of commercial fuel for testing and research purposes.


The amount of spent fuel DOE can receive in Idaho remains subject to the overall established by the 1995 Settlement Agreement, 55 metric tons. As of 2011, DOE has received approximately 28 metric tons of heavy metal spent fuel in Idaho, mostly from foreign and domestic research reactors.  The MOA does not broaden the terms of the 1995 Settlement Agreement in regard to the overall amount of spent nuclear fuel that can be brought to Idaho, nor does it negate the requirement that all spent nuclear fuel must be removed from Idaho by January 1, 2035.

Key Provisions

  • The INL is only allowed to receive limited quantities of commercial spent nuclear fuel for specific research projects.
  • The INL may not receive more than 400 kilograms total heavy metal content of commercial fuel in any one year.
  • DOE may not receive more than a total of 55 metric tons of all spent fuel at the INL site.
  • All spent fuel must be out of Idaho by 2035.
  • DOE must provide notice to Idaho of all estimated and actual amounts of commercial spent fuel it receives in Idaho annually.
  • The MOA can be terminated at any time by the state of Idaho.