NIC Provides Evaluation of the MIT Nuclear Fuel Cycle Report | AREVA North America: Next Energy Blog


Out this week from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is their final report on “Future of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle.” (PDF Link) The conclusions asses a range of issues and questions related to the nuclear fuel cycle in the United States. While the full report is a little long to post here, we think that Davie Blee, Executive Director of the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council (NIC), has an interesting take on the major conclusions of the study. Blee notes:

“The report comes at a pivotal time for the nuclear energy industry – not just in light of the recent Fukushima crisis emanating from twin natural disasters – but given what the report calls “major changes in the U.S. and the world.” These factors include the path forward for supporting nuclear energy due to climate change, projections for dramatic nuclear energy growth internationally and hopefully domestically, as well as major developments in U.S. fuel cycle policies, including the reversal of federal government initiatives for commercial recycling of used nuclear fuel and the national repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.”

Blee agrees with MIT’s “continued optimism about the competitiveness of nuclear electricity,” its key role in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, and its recommendation to accelerate loan guarantee incentives for “First Movers.”

When looking at the situation and options for the back end of the fuel cycle, Blee also supports MIT’s idea for a “Fed Corp” to help implement a national used fuel and high-level waste management program. However, he disagrees with the author’s overall proposal for used fuel management.

Blee argues that approach should not be determined by current estimates of uranium resources, but also based on the view that used fuel can be a strategic asset for domestic energy security. He writes:

“The MIT study does not recognize the fact that the majority of other countries with established commercial nuclear power sectors have chosen to directly address this question early as a matter of national policy…Other countries with large and/or expanding commercial nuclear power programs, such as France, UK, Japan, Russia, China, and India, have made up-front policy decisions (based on energy security, resource conservation, sustainability, intergenerational equity and/or other societal and economic considerations) to manage used fuel as a resource and pursue and implement recycling of spent fuel.”

He goes on to say that “in the U.S., we have confirmed that used fuel can be stored effectively at U.S. plant sites for decades—but ultimate disposition is still required. Recycling offers a safe, competitive and more sustainable alternative for ultimate disposition. That is why nearly every nation with a significant nuclear power sector, with the exception of the United States, has embraced recycling.”

Read his entire post here or check out the MIT report, “Future of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle.” (PDF Link) .

TAGS: Davie Blee, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, NIC, U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council

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