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Published on May 29th, 2008 | by Rod Adams

25

What Do You Do About the Waste? Recycle and Reuse.

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May 29th, 2008 by
 
Recycle symbolAs a long time proponent of the increased use of nuclear energy, I have been involved in thousands of conversations on the topic. (Trust me, I am a boring guest at a cocktail party and a real pain around the water cooler.) Nearly every one of them eventually included the comment that sounds like a question but is usually offered as a trump card aimed at stopping the conversation – “That sounds pretty good, Rod, but what do you do about the waste?”

That is the point where – if the person that I am speaking to has not totally run out of patience or simply cannot wait to get another drink – the conversation gets really interesting. You see, “the waste issue” is the best news that there is about nuclear power. I am not alone in that feeling; many of my long time colleagues like Ted Rockwell, author of The Rickover Effect, How One Man Made a Difference, believe that the byproducts that remain after producing energy with fission are valuable raw materials that should not be considered to be waste products. (See, for example, Why Throw Away a Priceless Resource?)

In our current commercial nuclear power plants, operators remove about one third of the core every 18-24 months, move around the remaining fuel elements and then add fresh fuel bundles to make up for the ones that were removed. The fuel bundles that were removed, despite having produced large quantities of clean, inexpensive heat for 4-6 years, still contain about 95% of their initial potential energy. In the US, we currently store that material in pools or in licensed, tough, highly engineered storage containers. Dry Cask storage

In other countries – like the UK, Japan, Russia, and France – the removed fuel is recycled to recover the uranium and plutonium that can be put back into the fuel cycle so that they can later be split (fissioned) to release heat. Those components of used nuclear fuel are also the ones that have long half lives, ranging from a few thousand years in the case of some plutonium isotopes to several billion years in the case of the uranium-238 that is a major component of the material.

Currently, the used fuel recycling regimes in operation still consider the lighter parts of used fuel to be a waste material that needs to be put into long term storage, but there are some very bright people who believe that even that material is far to valuable to throw away. NNadir, a diarist on Daily Kos has written extensively on this issue in commentary like Profile of a “Dangerous Nuclear Waste,” Cesium, Part 5.

The US used to have a plan to recycle our fuel as well, but a great deal of marketing and pressure by people that do not like the idea of using plutonium as a source of commercial heat resulted in President Ford issuing a presidential order to temporarily halt nuclear fuel recycling in 1976. President Carter, a man who claimed to be a nuclear engineer, made that ban permanent in the hopes that forcing US companies to avoid fuel recycling would cause others to abandon the very logical idea.

That effort did not work as planned, but the people who had invested large amounts of time and money into building three recycling plants in the US only to have them shut down with the stroke of a pen decided “once bitten, twice shy.” Though President Reagan removed the ban, President Clinton essentially reinstated it and no commercial company has been willing to build a facility and risk having it turn into a white elephant after an election.

The US is now back to considering the idea that used fuel should be recycled, a concept that makes a world of sense. That is especially true since it looks like there will be a number of new reactors under construction soon and they will provide a ready market for the recycled fuel.

That fuel is a bit more expensive than fuel made from fresh uranium because the recycled material has to be handled a bit differently, but the cost increase is on the order of 20-40% over the cost of fuel made from virgin materials. That is not unusual for a recycled product and like other recycling programs the case needs to be made that there are benefits that may not have been considered in the initial cost analysis.

The great thing about this whole concept is that ALL of the used fuel has been carefully stored away in a form that is easy to control and easy to keep segregated. Unlike some other materials that get mixed into the environment and require a lot of effort to recover, used nuclear fuel is just sitting around in the same location where it was once used just waiting for a recycling facility to be built. It does not take up much space, does not cost much to watch (compared to the heat value that it provided), and it has never hurt anyone because the people that watch it understand the simple concepts of time, distance and shielding.

Someday, I will tell you about how to apply the third R (Reduce) in the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mantra to nuclear fuel, but it is a separate topic that will require some thought about how to explain it without using terms that cause eyeballs to roll.

Related posts:

US Missing Opportunity to Recycle Vast Amounts of Energy

Its Time to Start Paying Attention to John McCain’s Ideas on Climate Change

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About the Author

loves and respects our common environment, but he has a fatal flaw in the eyes of many environmentalists -- he's a huge fan of atomic energy. Reduce, reuse, and recycle have been watchwords for Rod since his father taught him that raising rabbits is a great way to turn kitchen scraps into fertilizer for backyard fruit trees and vegetable gardens. They built a compost heap together in about 1967, when he was 8 and when Earth Day was a mere gleam in some people's eye. During his professional career, he has served in several assignments on nuclear submarines, including a 40-month tour as the Engineer Officer of the USS Von Steuben. In 1994, he was awarded US patent number 5309592 for the control system for a closed-cycle gas turbine. He founded Adams Atomic Engines, Inc. in 1993, started Atomic Insights in 1995, and began producing the Atomic Show Podcast in 2006. He is currently an active duty officer (O-5) in the US Navy. He looks forward to many interesting discussions.



  • Pingback: Recycling by the Numbers: The Good, Bad and Ugly of Statistics and Comparisons : Sustainablog

  • GoNuke

    To all of those who have commented here, the only long-term energy option now available to the inhabitants of Earth is nuclear energy. Even Dr. Patrick Moore, the founder of Greenpeace has stated the same. We do not need energy only when the wind blows or when the sun shines, we need reliable, clean energy 24 hours per day, seven days per week, for centuries. If you think batteries are the answer, remember this: 60% of the electrical power in the U.S. is created by burning coal. To charge your batteries, we will just have to burn more coal.

    Integral fast reactors (IFRs) are advanced liquid metal (liquid lead or sodium, or other suitable metal) cooled reactors that will consume plutonium and uranium and other radioactive metals for fuel. When IFRs have consumed their initial load of fuel, this spent fuel can be reprocessed using an electrometallurigical process called “pyroprocessing” to sort out the unconsumed fissionable materials and use them for fuel again. IFRs are 99.5 percent efficient. The reactors in use today (light water reactors) are five percent efficient. Integral fast reactors have “integrated” within the nuclear reactor site, the capability to perform the needed pyroprocessing functions.

    IFRs need only be fueled once during their lifetime. This means that hazardous nuclear fuel will not have to be trucked to and from the reactor every three to five years. The best part of the IFR fuel cycle is that the 65,000 or more tons waste plutonium that is stored in about 125 locations throughout this country can now be used for fuel in an IFR instead of being a waste disposal problem. IFRs produce less than one percent of the waste plutonium that today’s reactors produce. And what waste an IFR produces will be safe in 400 years instead of 1,000 to 200,000 years.

    If you are concerned about safety, think about this: hundreds of people are killed in the U.S. every year while mining coal or drilling for oil. The U.S. Navy has been operating a large fleet of nuclear-powered submarines for over 60 years and not one person has died from a nuclear-related accident.

    For about $2 trillion, and 15 years time, the U.S. can be oil independent and have a hydrogen fuel infrastructure on which to operate our entire nation’s transportation fleet. This will all be possible using the integral fast reactor – we already have enough nuclear waste and mined uranium to fuel 1,000 large IFRs for 1,000 years or more.

    Try reading the book: “Total Energy Independence for the United States – A Twelve-Year Plan.” Amazon has it.

  • GoNuke

    To all of those who have commented here, the only long-term energy option now available to the inhabitants of Earth is nuclear energy. Even Dr. Patrick Moore, the founder of Greenpeace has stated the same. We do not need energy only when the wind blows or when the sun shines, we need reliable, clean energy 24 hours per day, seven days per week, for centuries. If you think batteries are the answer, remember this: 60% of the electrical power in the U.S. is created by burning coal. To charge your batteries, we will just have to burn more coal.

    Integral fast reactors (IFRs) are advanced liquid metal (liquid lead or sodium, or other suitable metal) cooled reactors that will consume plutonium and uranium and other radioactive metals for fuel. When IFRs have consumed their initial load of fuel, this spent fuel can be reprocessed using an electrometallurigical process called “pyroprocessing” to sort out the unconsumed fissionable materials and use them for fuel again. IFRs are 99.5 percent efficient. The reactors in use today (light water reactors) are five percent efficient. Integral fast reactors have “integrated” within the nuclear reactor site, the capability to perform the needed pyroprocessing functions.

    IFRs need only be fueled once during their lifetime. This means that hazardous nuclear fuel will not have to be trucked to and from the reactor every three to five years. The best part of the IFR fuel cycle is that the 65,000 or more tons waste plutonium that is stored in about 125 locations throughout this country can now be used for fuel in an IFR instead of being a waste disposal problem. IFRs produce less than one percent of the waste plutonium that today’s reactors produce. And what waste an IFR produces will be safe in 400 years instead of 1,000 to 200,000 years.

    If you are concerned about safety, think about this: hundreds of people are killed in the U.S. every year while mining coal or drilling for oil. The U.S. Navy has been operating a large fleet of nuclear-powered submarines for over 60 years and not one person has died from a nuclear-related accident.

    For about $2 trillion, and 15 years time, the U.S. can be oil independent and have a hydrogen fuel infrastructure on which to operate our entire nation’s transportation fleet. This will all be possible using the integral fast reactor – we already have enough nuclear waste and mined uranium to fuel 1,000 large IFRs for 1,000 years or more.

    Try reading the book: “Total Energy Independence for the United States – A Twelve-Year Plan.” Amazon has it.

  • ondrejch

    Emily, the proliferation is really a straw man argument. No country developed its nuclear weapons by reprocessing fuel spent in power reactors, for the very good reason: it is insanely difficult, virtually impossible to make a weapon from such material.

    Therefore each and every country which ever developed weapons made a special, non-commercial-power reactors to do the job.

    Perhaps most importantly, nuclear weapons were created more than 60 years ago, using the primitive technology and knowledge of the time. Now all the knowledge necessary is pretty much out there in the open. Any country which decides to make nuclear weapons, will make them. (It has to be a country-wide decision, as one needs protection from Interpol and such). Even the least likely country, the starving pitiful North Korea, was able to make a stupid weapon! Using zero power reactors.

    There are other reasons why nuclear weapons are always developed independently of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Besides making the process much more straight forward and cheaper, it is also easily secured and concealed. Indeed, inb fact there is no correlation between possessing nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants: there are countries with neither, either, having weapons but no plants and countries having just plants and no weapons. There is no correlation, besides the media spinning the “N” word.

    This shows that nuclear weapons are purely a political problem, not a technical one, with absolutely none relation to peaceful nuclear program.

    Coutries have to be encouraged by intenational policies, that is against their interest to develop nuclear weapons. If a country political leadershiop considers nucelar weapons useful, they are going to develop them, independently of peacefull nuclear power.

    Obviously, in world where energy resources are increasingly more scarce, the lust for powerful weapons is higher than in the world with abundant energy resources. Therefore denying 3rd world countries at the pretext of proliferation worries is a ill conceived policy based on wrong assumption, which will backfire.

  • ondrejch

    Emily, the proliferation is really a straw man argument. No country developed its nuclear weapons by reprocessing fuel spent in power reactors, for the very good reason: it is insanely difficult, virtually impossible to make a weapon from such material.

    Therefore each and every country which ever developed weapons made a special, non-commercial-power reactors to do the job.

    Perhaps most importantly, nuclear weapons were created more than 60 years ago, using the primitive technology and knowledge of the time. Now all the knowledge necessary is pretty much out there in the open. Any country which decides to make nuclear weapons, will make them. (It has to be a country-wide decision, as one needs protection from Interpol and such). Even the least likely country, the starving pitiful North Korea, was able to make a stupid weapon! Using zero power reactors.

    There are other reasons why nuclear weapons are always developed independently of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Besides making the process much more straight forward and cheaper, it is also easily secured and concealed. Indeed, inb fact there is no correlation between possessing nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants: there are countries with neither, either, having weapons but no plants and countries having just plants and no weapons. There is no correlation, besides the media spinning the “N” word.

    This shows that nuclear weapons are purely a political problem, not a technical one, with absolutely none relation to peaceful nuclear program.

    Coutries have to be encouraged by intenational policies, that is against their interest to develop nuclear weapons. If a country political leadershiop considers nucelar weapons useful, they are going to develop them, independently of peacefull nuclear power.

    Obviously, in world where energy resources are increasingly more scarce, the lust for powerful weapons is higher than in the world with abundant energy resources. Therefore denying 3rd world countries at the pretext of proliferation worries is a ill conceived policy based on wrong assumption, which will backfire.

  • Emily

    Thanks for your response. For me, the future of the nuclear power industry is very much a global issue. It’s true that pyroprocessing isn’t dangerous for a country that already has nuclear weapons, and the impure plutonium it produces isn’t ideal for nuclear weapons. But for a country like South Korea, that is experimenting with pyroprocessing, I think it’s a dangerous method to pursue. Plus, we have no idea what kind of price tag it would require. Everything I’ve read says that we’re looking at $50-$100 billion. I don’t see the need to spend that kind of money.

    I think that the 4th generation reactor proposals out there today are the same ones that weren’t feasible 40 years ago and still won’t be feasible for another 40. There’s ways to move forward with nuclear energy, and I don’t think we’re necessarily pursuing the right paths. When you look at the GNEP, the partnership is too contradictory. You can’t claim to be focused on proliferation-resistant fuel cycles when you’re creating proliferation risks. The nuclear non-weapon states DO pay attention to what the nuclear weapon states are doing, and I personally am unable to support a program that sets the wrong example. Under the NPT, these non-weapon states are guaranteed assistance on their civilian energy programs. A state is a whole lot more credible when their actions are consistent with the message they are sending.

    When you look at MOX you can’t just look at it as a cost per unit heat argument either. There’s too much natural uranium for us to need to turn to MOX, not all reactors can currently use it as fuel, and it’s not like we’re putting spent fuel in the ground any time soon. There are too many variables to just treat MOX as oil, natural gas or coal – and I’m not sold that reprocessing is necessary now.

  • Emily

    Thanks for your response. For me, the future of the nuclear power industry is very much a global issue. It’s true that pyroprocessing isn’t dangerous for a country that already has nuclear weapons, and the impure plutonium it produces isn’t ideal for nuclear weapons. But for a country like South Korea, that is experimenting with pyroprocessing, I think it’s a dangerous method to pursue. Plus, we have no idea what kind of price tag it would require. Everything I’ve read says that we’re looking at $50-$100 billion. I don’t see the need to spend that kind of money.

    I think that the 4th generation reactor proposals out there today are the same ones that weren’t feasible 40 years ago and still won’t be feasible for another 40. There’s ways to move forward with nuclear energy, and I don’t think we’re necessarily pursuing the right paths. When you look at the GNEP, the partnership is too contradictory. You can’t claim to be focused on proliferation-resistant fuel cycles when you’re creating proliferation risks. The nuclear non-weapon states DO pay attention to what the nuclear weapon states are doing, and I personally am unable to support a program that sets the wrong example. Under the NPT, these non-weapon states are guaranteed assistance on their civilian energy programs. A state is a whole lot more credible when their actions are consistent with the message they are sending.

    When you look at MOX you can’t just look at it as a cost per unit heat argument either. There’s too much natural uranium for us to need to turn to MOX, not all reactors can currently use it as fuel, and it’s not like we’re putting spent fuel in the ground any time soon. There are too many variables to just treat MOX as oil, natural gas or coal – and I’m not sold that reprocessing is necessary now.

  • http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com Rod Adams

    Emily:

    What do you think about pyroprocessing? How about using the fission products themselves in various industrial applications – strontium for thermal batteries, cesium for irradiation, xenon for a number of applications requiring inert gases.

    I am not very concerned about the risk of proliferation in countries like the US that already have thousands of already manufactured warheads. If we cannot secure nuclear materials – and I know that we can – then we have more immediate problems than what would be introduced by recycling systems.

    I acknowledge that MOX is more expensive than fuel made from virgin materials. However, a similar statement can be made about almost any recycled material. Compare the cost per unit heat from MOX to that from coal, oil or gas and you understand that the material is far too valuable to bury.

  • http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com Rod Adams

    Emily:

    What do you think about pyroprocessing? How about using the fission products themselves in various industrial applications – strontium for thermal batteries, cesium for irradiation, xenon for a number of applications requiring inert gases.

    I am not very concerned about the risk of proliferation in countries like the US that already have thousands of already manufactured warheads. If we cannot secure nuclear materials – and I know that we can – then we have more immediate problems than what would be introduced by recycling systems.

    I acknowledge that MOX is more expensive than fuel made from virgin materials. However, a similar statement can be made about almost any recycled material. Compare the cost per unit heat from MOX to that from coal, oil or gas and you understand that the material is far too valuable to bury.

  • Emily

    I am personally a supporter of nuclear power. I am also a supporter of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. I do however think that your article comparing nuclear reprocessing to recycling is dangerous.

    First, from a financial standpoint, reprocessing does not make sense. MOX-fuel is more expensive than LEU. The capital required to build a reprocessing plant is enormous. Japan’s Rokkasho plant went substantially over budget. There are more than enough uranium resources in the world at present, and with uranium’s price being as high as it has been over the last 6 months, it is now economically viable to mine many new resources. The UK is even planning on dismantling its reprocessing plants in part because it doesn’t make sense financially.

    Second, from a non-proliferation standpoint, reprocessing is dangerous and worrisome. The IAEA was involved with the Japanese government throughout the entire construction of the Rokkasho plant, and yet they still cannot verify fairly substantial diversions. Reprocessing plants are inherently very hard to monitor. Additionally, as we enter this “nuclear renaissance” and upwards of 30 new countries develop nuclear power, reprocessing sends the wrong message. I think Carter got it right when he changed US policy to a once-through fuel cycle, in reaction in part to India’s “peaceful nuclear explosion.” Carter did not end reprocessing plans because people did not want plutonium used as nuclear fuel. At that time the US was planning on using plutonium in breeder reactors, which would then create more plutonium and potentially more nuclear weapons. These breeder reactors weren’t commercially viable then, and as far as I can tell, they aren’t today. I think the only commercially operating breeder reactor today is in Russia, and it used uranium. Even MOX is not proliferation resistant. You cannot separate the proliferation risks from reprocessing plans. And we need to do everything possible to discourage proliferation.

    Finally, from a waste standpoint, I feel that you implied that reprocessing just gets ride of all nuclear waste. Nuclear fuel is in “a form that is easy to control and easy to keep segregated” regardless of if it is reprocessed or not. Current dry cask storage is sustainable for the near future. Reprocessing also creates lots of unnecessary low level radioactive waste – twenty times the volume of a once-through fuel cycle. Given the current environment, I fail to see why reprocessing the risks of reprocessing are necessary.

  • Emily

    I am personally a supporter of nuclear power. I am also a supporter of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. I do however think that your article comparing nuclear reprocessing to recycling is dangerous.

    First, from a financial standpoint, reprocessing does not make sense. MOX-fuel is more expensive than LEU. The capital required to build a reprocessing plant is enormous. Japan’s Rokkasho plant went substantially over budget. There are more than enough uranium resources in the world at present, and with uranium’s price being as high as it has been over the last 6 months, it is now economically viable to mine many new resources. The UK is even planning on dismantling its reprocessing plants in part because it doesn’t make sense financially.

    Second, from a non-proliferation standpoint, reprocessing is dangerous and worrisome. The IAEA was involved with the Japanese government throughout the entire construction of the Rokkasho plant, and yet they still cannot verify fairly substantial diversions. Reprocessing plants are inherently very hard to monitor. Additionally, as we enter this “nuclear renaissance” and upwards of 30 new countries develop nuclear power, reprocessing sends the wrong message. I think Carter got it right when he changed US policy to a once-through fuel cycle, in reaction in part to India’s “peaceful nuclear explosion.” Carter did not end reprocessing plans because people did not want plutonium used as nuclear fuel. At that time the US was planning on using plutonium in breeder reactors, which would then create more plutonium and potentially more nuclear weapons. These breeder reactors weren’t commercially viable then, and as far as I can tell, they aren’t today. I think the only commercially operating breeder reactor today is in Russia, and it used uranium. Even MOX is not proliferation resistant. You cannot separate the proliferation risks from reprocessing plans. And we need to do everything possible to discourage proliferation.

    Finally, from a waste standpoint, I feel that you implied that reprocessing just gets ride of all nuclear waste. Nuclear fuel is in “a form that is easy to control and easy to keep segregated” regardless of if it is reprocessed or not. Current dry cask storage is sustainable for the near future. Reprocessing also creates lots of unnecessary low level radioactive waste – twenty times the volume of a once-through fuel cycle. Given the current environment, I fail to see why reprocessing the risks of reprocessing are necessary.

  • http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com Rod Adams

    Al:

    Sadly, terrorists seem quite aware of the fact that there are easier methods for killing large numbers of people. They have been quite active with conventional explosives and with weapons of opportunity – like petroleum laden aircraft. They have not had any success in gaining access to nuclear materials, but the well publicized fear of them gaining such access has certainly contributed to the supply demand imbalance in the energy markets.

    That supply-demand imbalance has helped to drive oil prices to rather spectacular levels. One side effect has been to provide plenty of spare cash for countries and organizations that sponsor terrorists. Hmmm.

  • http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com Rod Adams

    Al:

    Sadly, terrorists seem quite aware of the fact that there are easier methods for killing large numbers of people. They have been quite active with conventional explosives and with weapons of opportunity – like petroleum laden aircraft. They have not had any success in gaining access to nuclear materials, but the well publicized fear of them gaining such access has certainly contributed to the supply demand imbalance in the energy markets.

    That supply-demand imbalance has helped to drive oil prices to rather spectacular levels. One side effect has been to provide plenty of spare cash for countries and organizations that sponsor terrorists. Hmmm.

  • http://www.alfin2300.blogspot.com Al Fin

    I hope the terrorists of the world keep fixating on Plutonium. Because there are a lot better, easier, and cheaper ways to kill large numbers of people than by using nuclear weapons.

    We should hope the fanatical death dealers never learn about them.

  • http://www.alfin2300.blogspot.com Al Fin

    I hope the terrorists of the world keep fixating on Plutonium. Because there are a lot better, easier, and cheaper ways to kill large numbers of people than by using nuclear weapons.

    We should hope the fanatical death dealers never learn about them.

  • http://redgreenandblue.org Rod Adams

    Jeff:

    If you are concerned about keeping raw materials like plutonium out of the hands of someone who may possibly have the capacity to do something evil with them, you simply guard them like you do other valuable, but potentially hazardous materials.

    The quantity of concern is small and compact and easily surrounded by high security fences. I cannot provide the details, but I can testify from a number of personal experiences that the security measures taken at facilities that handle material that can potentially be used in nuclear weapons are pretty darned impressive.

    Those measures are part of the reason that recycled fuel materials a bit more expensive than those created from virgin materials and part of the reason for the reluctance of investors to get into the business. However, there is increasing interest because the extra costs pale in comparison to the cost of fossil fuels for the same amount of heat and power.

    A million BTUs from recycled nuclear fuel might cost a dollar or a bit more compared to 50-70 cents for fuel from virgin uranium. That same million BTUs costs $3-$9 from coal (depending on quality and distance from the mine) about $11.50 from burning natural gas (today’s price at Henry Hub) and $21.50 from burning oil (5.8 million BTU per barrel and $125 per barrel market price.)

  • http://redgreenandblue.org Rod Adams

    Jeff:

    If you are concerned about keeping raw materials like plutonium out of the hands of someone who may possibly have the capacity to do something evil with them, you simply guard them like you do other valuable, but potentially hazardous materials.

    The quantity of concern is small and compact and easily surrounded by high security fences. I cannot provide the details, but I can testify from a number of personal experiences that the security measures taken at facilities that handle material that can potentially be used in nuclear weapons are pretty darned impressive.

    Those measures are part of the reason that recycled fuel materials a bit more expensive than those created from virgin materials and part of the reason for the reluctance of investors to get into the business. However, there is increasing interest because the extra costs pale in comparison to the cost of fossil fuels for the same amount of heat and power.

    A million BTUs from recycled nuclear fuel might cost a dollar or a bit more compared to 50-70 cents for fuel from virgin uranium. That same million BTUs costs $3-$9 from coal (depending on quality and distance from the mine) about $11.50 from burning natural gas (today’s price at Henry Hub) and $21.50 from burning oil (5.8 million BTU per barrel and $125 per barrel market price.)

  • http://redgreenandblue.org Rod Adams

    Pluto Boy:

    Though I am often frustrated by the pace at which nuclear technologies can be implemented, the fact is that it takes a long time to make a change like introducing recycled fuel into an operational reactor. During the time that the engineering and review process has been going on, there have been some countries that built substantial inventories of both uranium and plutonium.

    However, Mixed Oxide fuels (MOX) are in widespread use throughout Europe and being manufactured in France, the UK, and Russia. Japan is getting very close to introducing MOX into their reactors. Here is a link with more information:

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf29.html

    You can also visit the Nuclear Regulatory Commission FAQ site about MOX

    http://www.nrc.gov/materials/fuel-cycle-fac/mox/faq.html

  • http://redgreenandblue.org Rod Adams

    Pluto Boy:

    Though I am often frustrated by the pace at which nuclear technologies can be implemented, the fact is that it takes a long time to make a change like introducing recycled fuel into an operational reactor. During the time that the engineering and review process has been going on, there have been some countries that built substantial inventories of both uranium and plutonium.

    However, Mixed Oxide fuels (MOX) are in widespread use throughout Europe and being manufactured in France, the UK, and Russia. Japan is getting very close to introducing MOX into their reactors. Here is a link with more information:

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf29.html

    You can also visit the Nuclear Regulatory Commission FAQ site about MOX

    http://www.nrc.gov/materials/fuel-cycle-fac/mox/faq.html

  • http://omar-basawad.blogspot.com/ Omar

    Informative. It seems, now, nucleur power – as much as I hate it – is here to stay and grow.

  • http://omar-basawad.blogspot.com/ Omar

    Informative. It seems, now, nucleur power – as much as I hate it – is here to stay and grow.

  • http://sustainablog.org Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

    Rod — you touch on this briefly, but doesn’t the ban on reprocessing largely come down to the production of plutonium in this process, and the security issues surrounding it? I mean, this is the stuff that goes into nuclear weapons — how much “time, distance and shielding” is required to keep plutonium out of the wrong hands (and I realize that, in some senses, no one can answer this definitively, and that shouldn’t necessarily undermine the argument for reprocessing)?

  • http://sustainablog.org Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

    Rod — you touch on this briefly, but doesn’t the ban on reprocessing largely come down to the production of plutonium in this process, and the security issues surrounding it? I mean, this is the stuff that goes into nuclear weapons — how much “time, distance and shielding” is required to keep plutonium out of the wrong hands (and I realize that, in some senses, no one can answer this definitively, and that shouldn’t necessarily undermine the argument for reprocessing)?

  • Pluto Boy

    As you say that countries which reprocess spent fuel also recycle the uranium and plutonium that is removed, could please inform us all what percentage of plutonium and uranium is reused in the UK, Russia, France and Japan. For countries on this list which fall into the 0% reuse category could you explain why there is no reuse and why you said there is? All of them have massive stocks separated at public expense, so could you please explain why this whole reprocessing scheme isn’t a private venture? Thanks for your response.

  • Pluto Boy

    As you say that countries which reprocess spent fuel also recycle the uranium and plutonium that is removed, could please inform us all what percentage of plutonium and uranium is reused in the UK, Russia, France and Japan. For countries on this list which fall into the 0% reuse category could you explain why there is no reuse and why you said there is? All of them have massive stocks separated at public expense, so could you please explain why this whole reprocessing scheme isn’t a private venture? Thanks for your response.

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