The December issue of Scientific American includes an article on smarter use of nuclear waste (subscription required for full article) that provides a comprehensive summary of advanced used fuel treatment technologies.
Here's a glimpse at the overview of fuel recycling that the article provides:
• To minimize global warming, humanity may need to generate much of its future energy using nuclear power technology, which itself releases essentially no carbon dioxide.Technorati tags: Nuclear Energy, Used Fuel, Energy, Reprocessing, Technology
• Should many more of today’s thermal (or slow-neutron) nuclear power plants be built, however, the world’s reserves of low-cost uranium ore will be tapped out within several decades. In addition, large quantities of highly radioactive waste produced just in the U.S. will have to be stored for at least 10,000 years—much more than can be accommodated by the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada. Worse, most of the energy that could be extracted from the original uranium ore would be socked away in that waste.
• The utilization of a new, much more efficient nuclear fuel cycle—one based on fast-neutron reactors and the recycling of spent fuel by pyrometallurgical processing—would allow vastly more of the energy in the earth’s readily available uranium ore to be used to produce electricity. Such a cycle would greatly reduce the creation of long-lived reactor waste and could support nuclear power generation indefinitely.