Skip to main content

Bush Administration to Back Reprocessing

From today's Wall Street Journal (free feature):
The Bush administration plans to announce a $250 million initiative to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, a first step toward reversing a 1970s policy that rejected reprocessing as too dangerous to pursue.

The administration's decision to put the money into its fiscal 2007 budget to test new technologies is part of an effort to jump-start the nuclear-power industry at a time when energy prices are high and concerns about global warming make nuclear power plants more acceptable.

According to nuclear industry officials and others briefed on the proposal in recent weeks, the program could be announced as early as next week in President Bush's State of the Union address. If the technology works, it could vastly reduce the amount of spent nuclear waste that would have to be buried in underground storage, such as at Nevada's Yucca Mountain, set to open after 2012.
More later.

Technorati tags: , , , , , ,


shusurvey12 said…
Please participate in a new energy issues survey--UNIDO-ICHET survey

Dear All:
We are currently launching a poll sponsored by UNIDO-ICHET to study public opinions and attitudes towards hydrogen energy related issues. We are also looking for feedback related to UNIDO-ICHET's website. Would you please logon to one of the URLs listed below (you can logon either site we offer). Your answers will produce valuable information for our researchers. (UNIDO-ICHET homepage, please log on and click 'for UNIDO-ICHET survey' button) (questionnaire web pages)

And please forward this meaningful survey message to anyone whom you know is also suitable to answer this questionnaire. Thank you.

Project leader: Mavis Tsai, Ph. D. Shih Hsin University
Jim Hopf said…
I’m not sure what my feelings are on this proposal. I’m all for increasing funding for long term fuel cycle and waste management research, but rushing into reprocessing (especially if that means settling for PUREX) would be a huge mistake. Any reprocessing technology that does not reduce the heat/bulk of the final waste stream enough to avoid ever having to build multiple repositories (such as PUREX) is simply not worth pursuing. It must be stressed that, since Yucca is able to take all the existing reactors waste (even assuming 60 years of operation), and because new reactors are not coming on line until ~2015 (most after ~2020), we don’t need to start reprocessing until ~2050 in order to avoid additional repositories. We shouldn’t be rushing to deploy inferior reprocessing technologies before then.

As far as UREX+ is concerned, will this require the use of exotic reactors? If so, how many? Does it have to be a significant fraction of overall nuclear capacity, or will a few GWe worth of (say, fast reactors) do the job. What is the consequence of a sub-optimal ratio of reactor types? They stated that UREX+ could reduce waste bulk/heat by a factor of 100. How great a reduction could be achieved if fast reactor capacity were limited to, say ~5% of LWR capacity? Could you still get a factor of ~10 reduction (which would still be enough to avoid additional repositories, at least in this century). They mentioned a system that focused on separating out individual isotopes for separate treatment. Some (like 90Sr) could be surface decayed. Perhaps this technology would allow strategic use of limited non-LWR reactor resources (which could be employed at govt. sites).

I bring all this up because I am very wary of grandiose plans/schemes that require complete, long-term central planning (by government, basically) of the entire nuclear enterprise. A “100-Year Plan”!! Puts the Soviet’s old 5-Year Plans to shame! This plays right into the anti’s argument that nuclear is fundamentally a large scale, government, socialized enterprise that could never survive under a liberalized, free market system. For nuclear to thrive, individual companies and/or communities have to be allowed to make individual decisions, and be able to build a reactor whenever they want, wherever they want, and of whatever type they want (i.e., what most meets their needs and is lowest cost, basically). The government’s waste management program simply has to take whatever waste results, period. You can develop whatever reprocessing technology you want, but having the waste management system dictate what reactor types people may build is letting the tail wag the dog, and will greatly diminish the success/expansion of nuclear. Any future waste processing plan should have to address the possibility of a future commercial plant fleet that is virtually all LWRs. (Assuming that the LWRs would use MOX fuel would be acceptable.)
Jim Hopf said…
More on the proposal/article:

My reaction to the concept of importing other countries’ waste (for reprocessing) is; “Great, after all our successful efforts to build public support for nuclear in this country…”.

Talking about this possibility, especially at this premature date, is a huge political loser for the industry, right at this critical juncture. One step at a time, guys. Before proposing grandiose schemes, we need to strive for simpler accomplishments, like restarting the industry and getting some new plants (LWRs) built. In addition to being extremely unpopular, this proposal carries the implied suggestion that nuclear power has these huge proliferation risks, that are so bad that we will have no choice but to take other countries nuclear waste if we proceed down the nuclear path. The fact is, commercial nuclear power has few, if any, real proliferation risks, especially if one does not insist upon every single tiny, undeveloped country having a nuclear program. We should focus on getting nuclear re-established in the developed world first, before trying to solve the developing world’s problems.

Another annoyance was the reference to “Energy Department Officials” being worried about nuclear waste stores at several sites relatively near to large cities. Who are these “officials”, and what exactly are they trying to accomplish? Yes, we need to push for centralized storage (Yucca Mtn.), but resorting to scaremongering (to counter that of the anti’s) will be counterproductive in the long run, as it serves to amplify the public’s nuclear fears. The fact is that no event (accident or attack) involving dry storage casks, or even spent fuel pools, could have any significant effect on any major city. The cities are simply too far away, by a wide margin. Effects (if any) would be limited to the local area.
Anonymous said…
Why not have the government return to the utilities the $24 billion that has so far been paid for a national geological repository owned and managed by the Federal Government, and tell the utilities to solve their own waste problem? Also include in such a bill before Congress a requirement for coal and natural gas plants to secure and safely dispose of their waste, too, including COx, SOx, NOx, mercury, etc. In that way government involvement in nuclear power generation can be removed, the regulatory playing field leveled among the different types of electricity generators, and the Free Market can decide on what's the best, most economical path to take. Of course, this means that anti-nukes can't be permitted obstruct progress on local spent fuel repositories or local spent fuel reprocessing facilities indefinitely when safety reviews verify compliance with applicable regulation, especially because such obstruction hinders the Free Market system with no added value to public health and safety.

I really like what Rod Adams writes about this issue at:

Yucca Mountain:
Right Answer; Wrong Question

Common myths . . .Is Nuclear Waste A Huge Problem?


Paul W. Primavera
Anonymous said…
What is UREX+? How different is that from Purex? Although UREX+ is said to be for extracting uranium from spent fuel, MOX fuel is recycled to LWR and uranium is storaged, according the recycle scheme published.

Popular posts from this blog

Making Clouds for a Living

Donell Banks works at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 as a shift supervisor in Operations, but is in the process of transitioning to his newly appointed role as the daily work controls manager. He has been in the nuclear energy industry for about 11 years.

I love what I do because I have the unique opportunity to help shape the direction and influence the culture for the future of nuclear power in the United States. Every single day presents a new challenge, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As a shift supervisor, I was primarily responsible for managing the development of procedures and programs to support operation of the first new nuclear units in the United States in more than 30 years. As the daily work controls manager, I will be responsible for oversight of the execution and scheduling of daily work to ensure organizational readiness to operate the new units.

I envision a nuclear energy industry that leverages the technology of today to improve efficiency…

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Nuclear: Energy for All Political Seasons

The electoral college will soon confirm a surprise election result, Donald Trump. However, in the electricity world, there are fewer surprises – physics and economics will continue to apply, and Republicans and Democrats are going to find a lot to like about nuclear energy over the next four years.

In a Trump administration, the carbon conversation is going to be less prominent. But the nuclear value proposition is still there. We bring steady jobs to rural areas, including in the Rust Belt, which put Donald Trump in office. Nuclear plants keep the surrounding communities vibrant.

We hold down electricity costs for the whole economy. We provide energy diversity, reducing the risk of disruption. We are a critical part of America’s industrial infrastructure, and the importance of infrastructure is something that President-Elect Trump has stressed.

One of our infrastructure challenges is natural gas pipelines, which have gotten more congested as extremely low gas prices have pulled m…